Skip to main content

Full text of "A New England nun, and other stories"

See other formats











Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 

Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
THE  DEBTOR.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
EVELINA'S  GARDEN.     16mo. 
THE  FAIR  LAVINIA.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
GILES  CORY,  YEOMAN.     Illustrated.     32mo. 
THE  GIVERS.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
A  HUMBLE  ROMANCE.     Post  8vo. 
JANE  FIELD.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
JEROME— A  POOR  MAN.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
THE  LOVE  OF  PARSON  LORD.     Post  8vo. 
MADELON.     Post  8vo. 
A  NEW  ENGLAND   NUN.     Post  8vo. 
PEMBROKE.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
THE  PORTION  OF  LABOR.    Illustrated.    Post  8vo. 

Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
SILENCE,  ETC.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
SIX  TREES.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 
UNDERSTUDIES.     Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 

Illustrated.     Post  8vo. 

THE  YATES  PRIDE.     Illustrated.     16mo. 
YOUNG  LUCRETIA.     Illustrated.    Post  8vo. 


Copyright,  1891,  by  HARPER  &  BROTHERS, 



7  12 




A    GALA    DRESS 37 


SISTER    LIDDY      ..  '  .      .      v     >     :'. '/,   '/.  «    .  8l 

CALLA-LILIES    AND    HANNAH.       .      .      .      , 99 


A    POETESS 140 

CHRISTMAS  JENNY  .      .      ,      . *      .      .  l6o 

A    POT    OF    GOLD                    .      „    ..yW      *      .      .      ,      .      .       .  178 

THE   SCENT   OF   THE    ROSES 198 

A    SOLITARY  .       .      .      .     '."'  •      v    V     '      •      •      •'     •      •       •  2I5 












A   CHURCH    MOUSE 4°7 


THE   REVOLT   OF   u  MOTHER " 448 


IT  was  late  in  the  afternoon,  and  the  light  was  waning. 
There  was  a  difference  in  the  look  of  the  tree  shadows  out 
in  the  yard.  Somewhere  in  the  distance  cows  were  lowing 
and  a  little  bell  was  tinkling;  now  and  then  a  farm-wagon 
tilted  by,  and  the  dust  flew ;  some  blue-shirted  laborers  with 
shovels  over  their  shoulders  plodded  past ;  little  swarms  of 
flies  were  dancing  up  and  down  before  the  peoples'  faces 
in  the  soft  air.  There  seemed  to  be  a  gentle  stir  arising 
over  everything  for  the  mere  sake  of  subsidence — a  very 
premonition  of  rest  and  hush  and  night. 

This  soft  diurnal  commotion  was  over  Louisa  Ellis  also. 
She  had  been  peacefully  sewing  at  her  sitting-room  window 
all  the  afternoon.  Now  she  quilted  her  needle  carefully 
into  her  work,  which  she  folded  precisely,  and  laid  in  a 
basket  with  her  thimble  and  thread  and  scissors.  Louisa 
Ellis  could  not  remember  that  ever  in  her  life  she  had  mis 
laid  one  of  these  little  feminine  appurtenances,  which  had 
become,  from  long  use  and  constant  association,  a  very  part 
of  her  personality. 

Louisa  tied  a  green  apron  round  her  waist,  and  got  out  a 
flat  straw  hat  with  a  green  ribbon.  Then  she  went  into  the 
garden  with  a  little  blue  crockery  bowl,  to  pick  some  cur 
rants  for  her  tea.  After  the  currants  were  picked  she  sat 


on  the  back  door-step  and  stemmed  them,  collecting  the 
stems  carefully  in  her  apron,  and  afterwards  throwing  them 
into  the  hen-coop.  She  looked  sharply  at  the  grass  beside 
the  step  to  see  if  any  had  fallen  there. 

Louisa  was  slow  and  still  in  her  movements ;  it  took  her 
a  long  time  to  prepare  her  tea;  but  when  ready  it  was 
set  forth  with  as  much  grace  as  if  she  had  been  a  veritable 
guest  to  her  own  self.  The  little  square  table  stood  exactly 
in  the  centre  of  the  kitchen,  and  was  covered  with  a  starched 
linen  cloth  whose  border  pattern  of  flowers  glistened. 
Louisa  had  a  damask  napkin  on  her  tea-tray,  where  were 
arranged  a  cut-glaas  tumbler  full  of  teaspoons,  a  silver 
cream-pitcher,  a  china  sugar-bowl,  and  one  pink  china  cup 
and  saucer.  Louisa  used  china  every  day —  something 
which  none  of  her  neighbors  did.  They  whispered  about 
it  among  themselves.  Their  daily  tables  were  laid  with 
common  crockery,  their  sets  of  best  china  stayed  in  the  par 
lor  closet,  and  Louisa  Ellis  was  no  richer  nor  better  bred 
than  they.  Still  she  would  use  the  china.  She  had  for 
her  supper  a  glass  dish  full  of  sugared  currants,  a  plate  of 
little  cakes,  and  one  of  light  white  biscuits.  Also  a  leaf  or 
two  of  lettuce,  which  she  cut  up  daintily.  Louisa  was  very 
fond  of  lettuce,  which  she  raised  to  perfection  in  her  little 
garden.  She  ate  quite  heartily,  though  in  a  delicate,  peck 
ing  way ;  it  seemed  almost  surprising  that  any  considerable 
bulk  of  the  food  should  vanish. 

After  tea  she  filled  a  plate  with  nicely  baked  thin  corn- 
cakes,  and  carried  them  out  into  the  back-yard. 

«  Caesar I"  she  called.     "  Csesar  !  Caesar !" 

There  was  a  little  rush,  and  the  clank  of  a  chain,  and  a  large 
yellow-and-white  dog  appeared  at  the  door  of  hb  tiny  hut, 
which  was  half  hidden  among  the  tall  grasses  and  flowers. 


Louisa  patted  him  and  gave  him  the  corn-cakes.  Then 
she  returned  to  the  house  and  washed  the  tea-things,  pol 
ishing  the  china  carefully.  The  twilight  had  deepened  ;  the 
chorus  of  the  frogs  floated  in  at  the  open  window  wonder 
fully  loud  and  shrill,  and  once  in  a  while  a  long  sharp  drone 
from  a  tree-toad  pierced  it.  Louisa  took  off  her  green 
gingham  apron,  disclosing  a  shorter  one  of  pink  and  white 
print.  She  lighted  her  lamp,  and  sat  down  again  with  her 

In  about  half  an  bour  Joe  Dagget  came.  She  heard  his 
heavy  step  on  the  walk,  and  rose  and  took  off  her  pink-and- 
white  apron.  Under  that  was  still  another — white  linen 
with  a  little  cambric  edging  on  the  bottom  ;  that  was  Louisa's 
company  apron.  She  never  wore  it  without  her  calico  sew 
ing  apron  over  it  unless  she  had  a  guest.  She  had  barely 
folded  the  pink  and  white  one  with  methodical  haste  and 
laid  it  in  a  table-drawer  when  the  door  opened  and  Joe 
Dagget  entered. 

He  seemed  to  fill  up  the  whole  room.  A  little  yellow 
canary  that  had  been  asleep  in  his  green  cage  at  the  south 
window  woke  up  and  fluttered  wildly,  beating  his  little  yel 
low  wings  against  the  wires.  He  always  did  so  when  Joe 
Dagget  came  into  the  room. 

"  Good-evening,"  said  Louisa.  She  extended  her  hand 
with  a  kind  of  solemn  cordiality. 

"  Good  -  evening,  Louisa,"  returned  the  man,  in  a  loud 

She  placed  a  chair  for  him,  and  they  sat  facing  each  other, 
with  the  table  between  them.  He  sat  bolt-upright,  toeing 
out  his  heavy  feet  squarely,  glancing  with  a  good-humored 
uneasiness  around  the  room.  She  sat  gently  erect,  folding 
her  slender  hands  in  her  white-linen  lap. 


"  Been  a  pleasant  day,"  remarked  Dagget. 

"Real  pleasant,"  Louisa  assented,  softly.  "Have  you 
been  haying?"  she  asked,  after  a  little  while. 

"Yes,  I've  been  haying  all  day,  down  in  the  ten-acre  lot. 
Pretty  hot  work." 

"It  must  be." 

"  Yes,  it's  pretty  hot  work  in  the  sun." 

"  Is  your  mother  well  to-day  ?" 

"  Yes,  mother's  pretty  well." 

"  I  suppose  Lily  Dyer's  with  her  now  ?" 

Dagget  colored.  "Yes,  she's  with  her,"  he  answered, 

He  was  not  very  young,  but  there  was  a  boyish  look  about 
his  large  face.  Louisa  was  not  quite  as  old  as  he,  her  face 
was  fairer  and  smoother,  but  she  gave  people  the  impression 
of  being  older. 

"  I  suppose  she's  a  good  deal  of  help  to  your  mother," 
she  said,  further. 

"  I  guess  she  is ;  I  don't  know  how  mother'd  get  along 
wkhout  her,"  said  Dagget,  with  a  sort  of  embarrassed  warmth. 

"  She  looks  like  a  real  capable  girl.  She's  pretty-looking 
too,"  remarked  Louisa. 

"Yes,  she  is  pretty  fair  looking." 

Presently  Dagget  began  fingering  the  books  on  the  table. 
There  was  a  square  red  autograph  album,  and  a  Young 
Lady's  Gift-Book  which  had  belonged  to  Louisa's  mother. 
He  took  them  up  one  after  the  other  and  opened  them ; 
then  laid  them  down  again,  the  album  on  the  Gift-Book. 

Louisa  kept  eying  them  with  mild  uneasiness.  Finally 
she  rose  and  changed  the  position  of  the  books,  putting  the 
album  underneath.  That  was  the  way  they  had  been  ar 
ranged  in  the  first  place. 


Dagget  gave  an  awkward  little  laugh.  "  Now  what  dif 
ference  did  it  make  which  book  was  on  top  ?"  said  he. 

Louisa  looked  at  him  with  a  deprecating  smile.  "  I  al 
ways  keep  them  that  way,"  murmured  she. 

"You  do  beat  everything,"  said  Dagget,  trying  to  laugh 
again.  His  large  face  was  flushed. 

He  remained  about  an  hour  longer,  then  rose  to  take 
leave.  Going  out,  he  stumbled  over  a  rug,  and  trying  to 
recover  himself,  hit  Louisa's  work-basket  on  the  table,  and 
knocked  it  on  the  floor. 

He  looked  at  Louisa,  then  at  the  rolling  spools;  he 
ducked  himself  awkwardly  toward  them,  but  she  stopped 
him.  "  Never  mind,"  said  she ;  "  I'll  pick  them  up  after 
you're  gone." 

She  spoke  with  a  mild  stiffness.  Either  she  was  a  little 
disturbed,  or  his  nervousness  affected  her,  and  made  her 
seem  constrained  in  her  effort  to  reassure  him. 

When  Joe  Dagget  was  outside  he  drew  in  the  sweet  evening 
air  with  a  sigh,  and  felt  much  as  an  innocent  and  perfectly 
well-intentioned  bear  might  after  his  exit  from  a  china  shop. 

Louisa,  on  her  part,  felt  much  as  the  kind-hearted,  long- 
suffering  owner  of  the  china  shop  might  have  done  after 
the  exit  of  the  bear. 

She  tied  on  the  pink,  then  the  green  apron,  picked  up  all 
the  scattered  treasures  and  replaced  them  in  her  work- 
basket,  and  straightened  the  rug.  Then  she  set  the  lamp 
on  the  floor,  and  began  sharply  examining  the  carpet.  She 
even  rubbed  her  fingers  over  it,  and  looked  at  them. 

"  He's  tracked  in  a  good  deal  of  dust,'1  she  murmured. 
"  I  thought  he  must  have." 

Louisa  got  a  dust-pan  and  brush,  and  swept  Joe  Dagget's 
track  carefully. 


If  he  could  have  known  it,  it  would  have  increased  his 
perplexity  and  uneasiness,  although  it  would  not  have  dis 
turbed  his  loyalty  in  the  least.  He  came  twice  a  week  to 
see  Louisa  Ellis,  and  every  time,  sitting  there  in  her  deli* 
cately  sweet  room,  he  felt  as  if  surrounded  by  a  hedge  of 
lace.  He  was  afraid  to  stir  lest  he  should  put  a  clumsy 
foot  or  hand  through  the  /-airy  web,  and  he  had  always  the 
consciousness  that  Louisa  /as  watching  fearfully  lest  he 

Still  the  lace  and  Louisa  commanded  perforce  his  per 
fect  respect  and  patience  and  loyalty.  They  were  to  be 
married  in  a  month,  after  a  singular  courtship  which  had 
lasted  for  a  matter  of  fifteen  years.  For  fourteen  out  of 
the  fifteen  years  the  two  had  not  once  seen  each  other,  and 
they  had  seldom  exchanged  letters.  Joe  had  been  all  those 
years  in  Australia,  where  he  had  gone  to  make  his  fortune, 
and  where  he  had  stayed  until  he  made  it.  He  would  have 
stayed  fifty  years  if  it  had  taken  so  long,  and  come  home 
feeble  and  tottering,  or  never  come  home  at  all,  to  marry 

But  the  fortune  had  been  made  in  the  fourteen  years, 
and  he  had  come  home  now  to  marry  the  woman  who  had 
been  patiently  and  unquestioningly  waiting  for  him  all  that 

Shortly  after  they  were  engaged  he  had  announced  to 
Louisa  his  determination  to  strike  out  into  new  fields,  and 
secure  a  competency  before  they  should  be  married.  She 
had  listened  and  assented  with  the  sweet  serenity  which 
never  failed  her,  not  even  when  her  lover  set  forth  on  that 
long  and  uncertain  journey.  Joe,  buoyed  up  as  he  was  by 
his  sturdy  determination,  broke  down  a  little  at  the  last, 
but  Louisa  kissed  him  with  a  mild  blush,  and  said  good-by. 


"  It  won't  be  for  long,"  poor  Joe  had  said,  huskily ;  but 
it  was  for  fourteen  years. 

In  that  length  of  time  much  had  happened.  Louisa's 
mother  and  brother  had  died,  and  she  was  all  alone  in  the 
world.  But  greatest  happening  of  all — a  subtle  happening 
which  both  were  too  simple  to  understand — Louisa's  feet 
had  turned  into  a  path,  smooth  maybe  under  a  calm,  serene 
sky,  but  so  straight  and  unswerving  that  it  co«ld  only  meet 
a  check  at  her  grave,  and  so  narrow  that  there  was  no  room 
for  any  one  at  her  side. 

Louisa's  first  emotion  when  Joe  Dagget  came  home  (he 
had  not  apprised  her  of  his  coming)  was  consternation,  al 
though  she  would  not  admit  it  to  herself,  and  he  never 
dreamed  of  it.  Fifteen  years  ago  she  had  been  in  love 
with  him — at  least  she  considered  herself  to  be.  Just  at 
that  time,  gently  acquiescing  with  and  falling  into  the  nat 
ural  drift  of  girlhood,  she  had  seen  marriage  ahead  as  a 
reasonable  feature  and  a  probable  desirability  of  life.  She 
had  listened  with  calm  docility  to  her  mother's  views  upon 
the  subject.  Her  mother  was  remarkable  for  her  cool 
sense  and  sweet,  even  temperament.  She  talked  wisely  to 
her  daughter  when  Joe  Dagget  presented  himself,  and 
Louisa  accepted  him  with  no  hesitation.  He  was  the  first 
lover  she  had  ever  had. 

She  had  been  faithful  to  him  all  these  years.  She  had 
never  dreamed  of  the  possibility  of  marrying  any  one  else. 
Her  life,  especially  for  the  last  seven  years,  had  been  full 
of  a  pleasant  peace,  she  had  never  felt  discontented  nor 
impatient  over  her  lover's  absence ;  still  she  had  always 
looked  forward  to  his  return  and  their  marriage  as  the  in 
evitable  conclusion  of  things.  However,  she  had  fallen 
»nto  a  way  of  placing  it  so  far  in  the  future  that  it  was  al- 


most  equal  to  placing  it  over  the  boundaries  of  another 

When  Joe  came  she  had  been  expecting  him,  and  ex 
pecting  to  be  married  for  fourteen  years,  but  she  was  as 
much  surprised  and  taken  aback  as  if  she  had  never 
thought  of  it. 

Joe's  consternation  came  later.  He  eyed  Louisa  with 
an  instant  confirmation  of  his  old  admiration.  She  had 
changed  but  little.  She  still  kept  her  pretty  manner  and 
soft  grace,  and  was,  he  considered,  every  whit  as  attractive 
as  ever.  As  for  himself,  his  stent  was  done ;  he  had  turned 
his  face  away  from  fortune-seeking,  and  the  old  winds  of 
romance  whistled  as  loud  and  sweet  as  ever  through  his 
ears.  All  the  song  which  he  had  been  wont  to  hear  in 
them  was  Louisa ;  he  had  for  a  long  time  a  loyal  be 
lief  that  he  heard  it  still,  but  finally  it  seemed  to  him  that 
although  the  winds  sang  always  that  one  song,  it  had  an 
other  name.  But  for  Louisa  the  wind  had  never  more  than 
murmured ;  now  it  had  gone  down,  and  everything  was  still. 
She  listened  for  a  little  while  with  half-wistful  attention ; 
then  she  turned  quietly  away  and  went  to  work  on  her 
wedding  clothes. 

Joe  had  made  some  extensive  and  quite  magnificent 
alterations  in  his  house.  It  was  the  old  homestead ;  the 
newly-married  couple  would  live  there,  for  Joe  could  not 
desert  his  mother,  who  refused  to  leave  her  old  home. 
So  Louisa  must  leave  hers.  Every  morning,  rising  and 
going  about  among  her  neat  maidenly  possessions,  she  felt 
as  one  looking  her  last  upon  the  faces  of  dear  friends.  It 
was  true  that  in  a  measure  she  could  take  them  with  her,  but, 
robbed  of  their  old  environments,  they  would  appear  in  such 
new  guises  that  they  would  almost  cease  to  be  themselves, 


Then  there  were  some  peculiar  features  of  her  happy  soli 
tary  life  which  she  would  probably  be  obliged  to  relinquish 
altogether.  Sterner  tasks  than  these  graceful  but  half- 
needless  ones  would  probably  devolve  upon  her.  There 
would  be  a  large  house  to  care  for;  there  would  be  com 
pany  to  entertain  ;  there  would  be  Joe's  rigorous  and  feeble 
old  mother  to  wait  upon ;  and  it  would  be  contrary  to  all 
thrifty  village  traditions  for  her  to  keep  more  than  one  ser 
vant.  Louisa  had  a  little  still,  and  she  used  to  occupy  her 
self  pleasantly  in  summer  weather  with  distilling  the  sweet 
and  aromatic  essences  from  roses  and  peppermint  and  spear 
mint.  By-and-by  her  still  must  be  laid  away.  Her  store  of 
essences  was  already  considerable,  and  there  would  be  no 
time  for  her  to  distil  for  the  mere  pleasure  of  it.  Then 
Joe's  mother  would  think  it  foolishness  ;  she  had  already 
hinted  her  opinion  in  the  matter.  Louisa  dearly  loved  to 
sew  a  linen  seam,  not  always  for  use,  but  for  the  simple, 
mild  pleasure  which  she  took  in  it.  She  would  have  been 
loath  to  confess  how  more  than  once  she  had  ripped  a  seam 
for  the  mere  delight  of  sewing  it  together  again.  Sitting 
at  her  window  during  long  sweet  afternoons,  drawing  her 
needle  gently  through  the  dainty  fabric,  she  was  peace  itself. 
But  there  was  small  chance  of  such  foolish  comfort  in  the 
future.  Joe's  mother,  domineering,  shrewd  old  matron  that 
she  was  even  in  her  old  age,  and  very  likely  even  Joe  him 
self,  with  his  honest  masculine  rudeness,  would  laugh  and 
frown  down  all  these  pretty  but  senseless  old  maiden  ways. 
Louisa  had  almost  the  enthusiasm  of  an  artist  over  the 
mere  order  and  cleanliness  of  her  solitary  home.  She  had 
throbs  of  genuine  triumph  at  the  sight  of  the  window-panes 
which  she  had  polished  until  they  shone  like  jewels.  She 
gloated  gently  over  her  orderly  bureau-drawers,  with  their 


exquisitely  folded  contents  redolent  with  lavender  and 
sweet  clover  and  very  purity.  Could  she  be  sure  of  the 
endurance  of  even  this  ?  She  had  visions,  so  startling  that 
she  half  repudiated  them  as  indelicate,  of  coarse  masculine 
belongings  strewn  about  in  endless  litter ;  of  dust  and  dis 
order  arising  necessarily  from  a  coarse  masculine  presence 
in  the  midst  of  all  this  delicate  harmony. 

Among  her  forebodings  of  disturbance,  not  the  least  was 
with  regard  to  Caesar.  Caesar  was  a  veritable  hermit  of  a 
dog.  For  the  greater  part  of  his  life  he  had  dwelt  in  his 
secluded  hut,  shut  out  from  the  society  of  his  kind  and  all 
innocent  canine  joys.  Never  had  Caesar  since  his  early 
youth  watched  at  a  woodchuck's  hole  ;  never  had  he  known 
the  delights  of  a  stray  bone  at  a  neighbor's  kitchen  door. 
And  it  was  all  on  account  of  a  sin  committed  when  hardly 
out  of  his  puppyhood.  No  one  knew  the  possible  depth 
of  remorse  of  which  this  mild-visaged,  altogether  innocent 
Jooking  old  dog  might  be  capable ;  but  whether  or  not  he 
had  encountered  remorse,  he  had  encountered  a  full  meas 
ure  of  righteous  retribution.  Old  Caesar  seldom  lifted  up 
his  voice  in  a  growl  or  a  bark ;  he  was  fat  and  sleepy ; 
there  were  yellow  rings  which  looked  like  spectacles  around 
his  dim  old  eyes ;  but  there  was  a  neighbor  who  bore  on 
his  hand  the  imprint  of  several  of  Caesar's  sharp  white 
youthful  teeth,  and  for  that  he  had  lived  at  the  end  of  a 
chain,  all  alone  in  a  little  hut,  for  fourteen  years.  The 
neighbor,  who  was  choleric  and  smarting  with  the  pain  of 
his  wound,  had  demanded  either  Caesar's  death  or  complete 
ostracism.  So  Louisa's  brother,  to  whom  the  dog  had  be 
longed,  had  built  him  his  little  kennel  and  tied  him  up. 
It  was  now  fourteen  years  since,  in  a  flood  of  youthful 
spirits,  he  had  inflicted  that  memorable  bite,  and  with  the 



exception  of  short  excursions,  always  at  the  end  of  the 
chain,  under  the  strict  guardianship  of  his  master  or  Louisa, 
the  old  dog  had  remained  a  close  prisoner.  It  is  doubtful 
if,  with  his  limited  ambition,  he  took  much  pride  in  the  fact, 
but  it  is  certain  that  he  was  possessed  of  considerable 
cheap  fame.  He  was  regarded  by  all  the  children  in  the 
village  and  by  many  adults  as  a  very  monster  of  ferocity. 
St.  George's  dragon  could  hardly  have  surpassed  in  evil 
repute  Louisa  Ellis's  old  yellow  dog.  Mothers  charged 
their  children  with  solemn  emphasis  not  to  go  too  near  to 
him,  and  the  children  listened  and  believed  greedily,  with  a 
fascinated  appetite  for  terror,  and  ran  by  Louisa's  house 
stealthily,  with  many  sidelong  and  backward  glances  at  the 
terrible  dog.  If  perchance  he  sounded  a  hoarse  bark, 
there  was  a  panic.  Wayfarers  chancing  into  Louisa's  yard 
eyed  him  with  respect,  and  inquired  if  the  chain  were  stout. 
Caesar  at  large  might  have  seemed  a  very  ordinary  dog, 
and  excited  no  comment  whatever ;  chained,  his  reputation 
overshadowed  him,  so  that  he  lost  his  own  proper  outlines 
and  looked  darkly  vague  and  enormous.  Joe  Dagget, 
however,  with  his  good-humored  sense  and  shrewdness,  saw 
him  as  he  was.  He  strode  valiantly  up  to  him  and  patted 
him  on  the  head,  in  spite  of  Louisa's  soft  clamor  of  warn 
ing,  and  even  attempted  to  set  him  loose.  Louisa  grew  so 
alarmed  that  he  desisted,  but  kept  announcing  his  opinion 
in  the  matter  quite  forcibly  at  intervals.  "There  ain't  a 
better-natured  dog  in  town,"  he  would  say,  "  and  it's  down 
right  cruel  to  keep  him  tied  up  there.  Some  day  I'm  going 
to  take  him  out." 

Louisa  had  very  little  hope  that  he  would  not,  one  of 
these  days,  when  their  interests  and  possessions  should  be 
more  completely  fused  in  one.  She  pictured  to  herself 


Caesar  on  the  rampage  through  the  quiet  and  unguarded 
village.  She  saw  innocent  children  bleeding  in  his  path. 
She  was  herself  very  fond  of  the  old  dog,  because  he  had 
belonged  to  her  dead  brotherHand  he  was  always  very  gentle 
with  her ;  still  she  had  great  faith  in  his  ferocity.  She  al 
ways  warned  people  not  to  go  too  near  him.  She  fed  him 
on  ascetic  fare  of  corn-mush  and  cakes,  and  never  fired  his 
dangerous  temper  with  heating  and  sanguinary  diet  of  flesh 
and  bones.  Louisa  looked  at  the  old  dog  munching  his 
simple  fare,  and  thought  of  her  approaching  marriage  and 
trembled.  Still  no  anticipation  of  disorder  and  confusion 
in  lieu  of  sweet  peace  and  harmony,  no  forebodings  of 
Caesar  on  the  rampage,  no  wild  fluttering  of  her  little  yellow 
canary,  were  sufficient  to  turn  her  a  hair's-breadth.  Joe 
Dagget  had  been  fond  of  her  and  working  for  her  all  these 
years.  It  was  not  for  her,  whatever  came  to  pass,  to  prove 
untrue  and  break  his  heart.  She  put  the  exquisite  little 
stitches  into  her  wedding-garments,  and  the  time  went  on 
until  it  was  only  a  week  before  her  wedding-day.  It  was  a 
Tuesday  evening,  and  the  wedding  was  to  be  a  week  from 

There  was  a  full  moon  that  night.  About  nine  o'clock 
Louisa  strolled  down  the  road  a  little  way.  There  were 
harvest-fields  on  either  hand,  bordered  by  low  stone  walls. 
Luxuriant  clumps  of  bushes  grew  beside  the  wall,  and  trees 
— wild  cherry  and  old  apple-trees — at  intervals.  Presently 
Louisa  sat  down  on  the  wall  and  looked  about  her  with 
mildly  sorrowful  reflectiveness.  Tall  shrubs  of  blueberry 
and  meadow-sweet,  all  woven  together  and  tangled  with 
blackberry  vines  and  horsebriers,  shut  her  in  on  either 
side.  She  had  a  little  clear  space  between  them.  Oppo 
site  her,  on  the  other  side  of  the  road,  was  a  spreading  tree ; 


the  moon  shone  between  its  boughs,  and  the  leaves  twinkled 
like  silver.  The  road  was  bespread  with  a  beautiful  shift 
ing  dapple  of  silver  and  shadow ;  the  air  was  full  of  a  mys 
terious  sweetness.  "  I  wonder  if  it's  wild  grapes  ?"  mur 
mured  Louisa.  She  sat  there  some  time.  She  was  just 
thinking  of  rising,  when  she  heard  footsteps  and  low  voices, 
and  remained  quiet.  It  was  a  lonely  place,  and  she  felt  a 
little  timid.  She  thought  she  would  keep  still  in  the  shadow 
and  let  the  persons,  whoever  they  might  be,  pass  her. 

But  just  before  they  reached  her  the  voices  ceased,  and 
the  footsteps.  She  understood  that  their  owners  had  also 
found  seats  upon  the  stone  wall.  She  was  wondering  if 
she  could  not  steal  away  unobserved,  when  the  voice  broke 
the  stillness.  It  was  Joe  Dagget's.  She  sat  still  and 

The  voice  was  announced  by  a  loud  sigh,  which  was  as 
familiar  as  itself.  "Well,"  said  Dagger,  "  you've  made  up 
your  mind,  then,  I  suppose  ?" 

"  Yes,"  returned  another  voice ;  "  I'm  going  day  after 

"That's  Lily  Dyer,"  thought  Louisa  to  herself.  The 
voice  embodied  itself  in  her  mind.  She  saw  a  girl  tall  and 
full-figured,  with  a  firm,  fair  face,  looking  fairer  and  firmer 
in  the  moonlight,  her  strong  yellow  hair  braided  in  a  close 
knot.  A  girl  full  of  a  calm  rustic  strength  and  bloom,  with 
a  masterful  way  which  might  have  beseemed  a  princess. 
Lily  Dyer  was  a  favorite  with  the  village  folk ;  she  had  just 
the  qualities  to  arouse  the  admiration.  She  was  good  and 
handsome  and  smart.  Louisa  had  often  heard  her  praises 

"Well,"  said  Joe  Dagget,  "  I  ain't  got  a  word  to  say." 

"  I  don't  know  what  you  could  say,"  returned  Lily  Dyer. 


"  Not  a  word  to  say,"  repeated  Joe,  drawing  out  the 
words  heavily.  Then  there  was  a  silence.  "  I  ain't  sorry," 
he  began  at  last,  "  that  that  happened  yesterday — that  we 
kind  of  let  on  how  we  felt  to  each  other.  I  guess  it's  just  as 
well  we  knew.  Of  course  I  can't  do  anything  any  different. 
I'm  going  right  on  an'  get  married  next  week.  I  ain't  going 
back  on  a  woman  that's  waited  for  me  fourteen  years,  an' 
break  her  heart." 

"  If  you  should  jilt  her  to-morrow,  I  wouldn't  have  you," 
spoke  up  the  girl,  with  sudden  vehemence. 

"  Well,  I  ain't  going  to  give  you  the  chance,"  said  he ; 
"  but  I  don't  believe  you  would,  either." 

"  You'd  see  I  wouldn't.  Honor's  honor,  an'  right's  right. 
An'  I'd  never  think  anything  of  any  man  that  went  against 
'em  for  me  or  any  other  girl ;  you'd  find  that  out,  Joe  Dagget." 

"  Well,  you'll  find  out  fast  enough  that  I  ain't  going 
against  'em  for  you  or  any  other  girl,"  returned  he.  Theh 
voices  sounded  almost  as  if  they  were  angry  with  each 
other.  Louisa  was  listening  eagerly. 

"  I'm  sorry  you  feel  as  if  you  must  go  away,"  said  Joe, 
"but  I  don't  know  but  it's  best." 

"  Of  course  it's  best.  I  hope  you  and  I  have  got  com 

"Well,  I  suppose  you're  right."  Suddenly  Joe's  voice 
got  an  undertone  of  tenderness.  "  Say,  Lily,"  said  he,  "  I'll 
get  along  well  enough  myself,  but  I  can't  bear  to  think — 
You  don't  suppose  you're  going  to  fret  much  over  it  ?" 

"  I  guess  you'll  find  out  I  sha'n't  fret  much  over  a  mar 
ried  man." 

"  Well,  I  hope  you  won't — I  hope  you  won't,  Lily.  God 
knows  I  do.  And  —  I  hope  —  one  of  these  days  —  you'll 
— come  across  somebody  else — " 


6<I  don't  see  any  reason  why  I  shouldn't."  Suddenly 
her  tone  changed.  She  spoke  in  a  sweet,  clear  voice,  so 
loud  that  she  could  have  been  heard  across  the  street. 
"No,  Joe  Dagget,"  said  she,  "I'll  never  marry  any  other 
man  as  long  as  I  live.  I've  got  good  sense,  an'  I  ain't 
going  to  break  my  heart  nor  make  a  fool  of  myself;  but  I'm 
never  going  to  be  married,  you  can  be  sure  of  that.  I  ain't 
that  sort  of  a  girl  to  feel  this  way  twice." 

Louisa  heard  an  exclamation  and  a  soft  commotion  be 
hind  the  bushes  ;  then  Lily  spoke  again — the  voice  sounded 
as  if  she  had  risen.  "  This  must  be  put  a  stop  to,"  said 
she.  "  We've  stayed  here  long  enough.  I'm  going  home." 

Louisa  sat  there  in  a  daze,  listening  to  their  retreating 
steps.  After  a  while  she  got  up  and  slunk  softly  home 
herself.  The  next  day  she  did  her  housework  methodically ; 
that  was  as  much  a  matter  of  course  as  breathing ;  but  she 
did  not  sew  on  her  wedding-clothes.  She  sat  at  her  win 
dow  and  meditated.  In  the  evening  Joe  came.  Louisa 
Ellis  had  never  known  that  she  had  any  diplomacy  in  her, 
but  when  she  came  to  look  for  it  that  night  she  found  it, 
although  meek  of  its  kind,  among  her  little  feminine  weap 
ons.  Even  now  she  could  hardly  believe  that  she  had 
heard  aright,  and  that  she  would  not  do  Joe  a  terrible  in 
jury  should  she  break  her  troth-plight.  She  wanted  to 
sound  him  without  betraying  too  soon  her  own  inclinations 
in  the  matter.  She  did  it  successfully,  and  they  finally 
came  to  an  understanding ;  but  it  was  a  difficult  thing,  for 
he  was  as  afraid  of  betraying  himself  as  she. 

She  never  mentioned  Lily  Dyer.  She  simply  said  that 
while  she  had  no  cause  of  complaint  against  him,  she  had 
lived  so  long  in  one  way  that  she  shrank  from  making  a 


"Well,  I   never  shrank,  Louisa,"  said   Dagget.      "I'm 
going  to  be  honest  enough  to  say  that  I  think  maybe  it's 
better  this  way ;  but  if  you'd  wanted  to  keep  on,  I'd  have 
stuck  to  you  till  my  dying  day.     I  hope  you  know  that." 
"Yes,  I  do,"  said  she. 

That  night  she  and  Joe  parted  more  tenderly  than  they 
had  done  for  a  long  time.  Standing  in  the  door,  holding 
each  other's  hands,  a  last  great  wave  of  regretful  memory 
swept  over  them. 

"  Well,  this  ain't  the  way  we've  thought  it  was  all  going 
to  end,  is  it,  Louisa  ?"  said  Joe. 

She  shook  her  head.  There  was  a  little  quiver  on  her 
placid  face. 

"  You  let  me  know  if  there's  ever  anything  I  can  do  for 
you,"  said  he.  "  I  ain't  ever  going  to  forget  you,  Louisa." 
Then  he  kissed  her,  and  went  down  the  path. 

Louisa,  all  alone  by  herself  that  night,  wept  a  little,  she 
hardly  knew  why ;  but  the  next  morning,  on  waking,  she 
felt  like  a  queen  who,  after  fearing  lest  her  domain  be 
wrested  away  from  her,  sees  it  firmly  insured  in  her  pos 

Now  the  tall  weeds  and  grasses  might  cluster  around 
Caesar's  little  hermit  hut,  the  snow  might  fall  on  its  roof 
year  in  and  year  out,  but  he  never  would  go  on  a  rampage 
through  the  unguarded  village.  Now  the  little  canary  might 
turn  itself  into  a  peaceful  yellow  ball  night  after  night,  and 
have  no  need  to  wake  and  flutter  with  wild  terror  against 
its  bars.  Louisa  could  sew  linen  seams,  and  distil  roses, 
and  dust  and  polish  and  fold  away  in  lavender,  as  long  as 
she  listed.  That  afternoon  she  sat  with  her  needle-work  at 
the  window,  and  felt  fairly  steeped  in  peace.  Lily  Dyer, 
tall  and  erect  and  blooming,  went  past ;  but  she  felt  no 


qualm.  If  Louisa  Ellis  had  sold  her  birthright  she  did  not 
know  it,  the  taste  of  the  pottage  was  so  delicious,  and  had 
been  her  sole  satisfaction  for  so  long.  Serenity  and  placid 
narrowness  had  become  to  her  as  the  birthright  itself.  She 
gazed  ahead  through  a  long  reach  of  future  days  strung  to 
gether  like  pearls  in  a  rosary,  every  one  like  the  others, 
and  all  smooth  and  flawless  and  innocent,  and  her  heart 
went  up  in  thankfulness.  Outside  was  the  fervid  summer 
afternoon ;  the  air  was  filled  with  the  sounds  of  the  busy 
harvest  of  men  and  birds  and  bees ;  there  were  halloos, 
metallic  clatterings,  sweet  calls,  and  long  hummings. 
Louisa  sat,  prayerfully  numbering  her  days,  like  an  un- 
cloistered  nun. 


THE  trees  were  in  full  leaf,  a  heavy  south  wind  was  blow 
ing,  and  there  was  a  loud  murmur  among  the  new  leaves. 
The  people  noticed  it,  for  it  was  the  first  time  that  year  that 
the  trees  had  so  murmured  in  the  wind.  The  spring  had 
come  with  a  rush  during  the  last  few  days. 

The  murmur  of  the  trees  sounded  loud  in  the  village 
church,  where  the  people  sat  waiting  for  the  service  to  be 
gin.  The  windows  were  open  ;  it  was  a  very  warm  Sunday 
for  May. 

The  church  was  already  filled  with  this  soft  sylvan  music 
— the  tender  harmony  of  the  leaves  and  the  south  wind,  and 
the  sweet,  desultory  whistles  of  birds — when  the  choir  arose 
and  began  to  sing. 

In  the  centre  of  the  row  of  women  singers  stood  Alma 
Way.  All  the  people  stared  at  her,  and  turned  their  ears 
critically.  She  was  the  new  leading  soprano.  Candace 
Whitcomb,  the  old  one,  who  had  sung  in  the  choir  for  forty 
years,  had  lately  been  given  her  dismissal.  The  audience 
considered  that  her  voice  had  grown  too  cracked  and  un 
certain  on  the  upper  notes.  There  had  been  much  com 
plaint,  and  after  long  deliberation  the  church-officers  had 
made  known  their  decision  as  mildly  as  possible  to  the  old 
singer.  She  had  sung  for  the  last  time  the  Sunday  before, 


and  Alma  Way  had  been  engaged  to  take  her  place.  With 
the  exception  of  the  organist,  the  leading  soprano  was  the 
only  paid  musician  in  the  large  choir.  The  salary  was  very 
modest,  still  the  village  people  considered  it  large  for  a 
young  woman.  Alma  was  from  the  adjoining  village  of  East 
Derby ;  she  had  quite  a  local  reputation  as  a  singer. 

Now  she  fixed  her  large  solemn  blue  eyes ;  her  long,  deli 
cate  face,  which  had  been  pretty,  turned  paler ;  the  blue 
flowers  on  her  bonnet  trembled ;  her  little  thin  gloved 
hands,  clutching  the  singing-book,  shook  perceptibly;  but 
she  sang  out  bravely.  That  most  formidable  mountain- 
height  of  the  world,  self-distrust  and  timidity,  arose  before 
her,  but  her  nerves  were  braced  for  its  ascent.  In  the  midst 
of  the  hymn  she  had  a  solo ;  her  voice  rang  out  piercingly 
sweet ;  the  people  nodded  admiringly  at  each  other ;  but 
suddenly  there  was  a  stir ;  all  the  faces  turned  toward  the 
windows  on  the  south  side  of  the  church.  Above  the  din 
of  the  wind  and  the  birds,  above  Alma  Way's  sweetly  strain 
ing  tones,  arose  another  female  voice,  singing  another  hymn 
to  another  tune. 

"  It's  her,"  the  women  whispered  to  each  other;  they  were 
half  aghast,  half  smiling. 

Candace  Whitcomb's  cottage  stood  close  to  the  south  side 
of  the  church.  She  was  playing  on  her  parlor  organ,  and 
singing,  to  drown  out  the  voice  of  her  rival. 

Alma  caught  her  breath ;  she  almost  stopped ;  the  hymn- 
book  waved  like  a  fan ;  then  she  went  on.  But  the  long 
husky  drone  of  the  parlor  organ  and  the  shrill  clamor  of  the 
other  voice  seemed  louder  than  anything  else. 

When  the  hymn  was  finished,  Alma  sat  down.  She  felt 
faint ;  the  woman  next  her  slipped  a  peppermint  into  her 
hand.  "  It  ain't  worth  minding,"  she  whispered,  vigorously. 


Alma  tried  to  smile ;  down  in  the  audience  a  young  man 
was  watching  her  with  a  kind  of  fierce  pity. 

In  the  last  hymn  Alma  had  another  solo.  Again  the  par 
lor  organ  droned  above  the  carefully  delicate  accompani 
ment  of  the  church  organ,  and  again  Candace  Whitcomb's 
voice  clamored  forth  in  another  tune. 

After  the  benediction,  the  other  singers  pressed  around 
Alma.  She  did  not  say  much  in  return  for  their  expressions 
of  indignation  and  sympathy.  She  wiped  her  eyes  furtively 
once  or  twice,  and  tried  to  smile.  William  Emmons,  the 
choir  leader,  elderly,  stout,  and  smooth-faced,  stood  over 
her,  and  raised  his  voice.  He  was  the  old  musical  digni 
tary  of  the  village,  the  leader  of  the  choral  club  and  the 
singing-schools.  "  A  most  outrageous  proceeding,"  he  said. 
People  had  coupled  his  name  with  Candace  Whitcomb's. 
The  old  bachelor  tenor  and  old  maiden  soprano  had  been 
wont  to  walk  together  to  her  home  next  door  after  the  Sat 
urday  night  rehearsals,  and  they  had  sung  duets  to  the  par 
lor  organ.  People  had  watched  sharply  her  old  face,  on 
which  the  blushes  of  youth  sat  pitifully,  when  William  Em 
mons  entered  the  singing- seats.  They  wondered  if  he 
would  ever  ask  her  to  marry  him. 

And  now  he  said  further  to  Alma  Way  that  Candace 
Whitcomb's  voice  had  failed  utterly  of  late,  that  she  sang 
shockingly,  and  ought  to  have  had  sense  enough  to  know  it. 

When  Alma  went  down  into  the  audience -room,  in  the 
midst  of  the  chattering  singers,  who  seemed  to  have  de 
scended,  like  birds,  from  song  flights  to  chirps,  the  minister 
approached  her.  He  had  been  waiting  to  speak  to  her. 
He  was  a  steady-faced,  fleshy  old  man,  who  had  preached 
from  that  one  pulpit  over  forty  years.  He  told  Alma,  in  his 
way,  how  much  he  regretted  the  annoyance  to  which  she 


had  been  subjected,  and  intimated  that  he  would  endeavor 
to  prevent  a  recurrence  of  it.  "  Miss  Whitcomb — must  be — 
reasoned  with,"  said  he  ;  he  had  a  slight  hesitation  of  speech, 
not  an  impediment.  It  was  as  if  his  thoughts  did  not  slide 
readily  into  his  words,  although  both  were  present.  He 
walked  down  the  aisle  with  Alma,  and  bade  her  good-morn 
ing  when  he  saw  Wilson  Ford  waiting  for  her  in  the  door 
way.  Everybody  knew  that  Wilson  Ford  and  Alma  were 
lovers ;  they  had  been  for  the  last  ten  years. 

Alma  colored  softly,  and  made  a  little  imperceptible  mo 
tion  with  her  head  ;  her  silk  dress  and  the  lace  on  her  man 
tle  fluttered,  but  she  did  not  speak.  Neither  did  Wilson, 
although  they  had  not  met  before  that  day0  They  did  not 
look  at  each  other's  faces — they  seemed  to  see  each  other 
without  that — and  they  walked  along  side  by  side. 

They  reached  the  gate  before  Candace  Whitcomb's  little 
house.  Wilson  looked  past  the  front  yard,  full  of  pink  and 
white  spikes  on  flowering  bushes,  at  the  lace-curtained  win 
dows  ;  a  thin  white  profile,  stiffly  inclined,  apparently  over  a 
book,  was  visible  at  one  of  them.  Wilson  gave  his  head  a 
shake.  He  was  a  stout  man,  with  features  so  strong  that 
they  overcame  his  flesh.  "  I'm  going  up  home  with  you, 
Alma,"  said  he ;  "  and  then — I'm  just  coming  back,  to  give 
Aunt  Candace  one  blowing  up." 

"Oh,  don't,  Wilson." 

"  Yes,  I  shall.  If  you  want  to  stand  this  kind  of  a  thing 
you  may  ;  I  sha'n't." 

"  There's  no  need  of  your  talking  to  her.  Mr.  Pollard's 
going  to." 

"  Did  he  say  he  was  ?" 

"Yes.  I  think  he's  going  in  before  the  afternoon  meet 
ing,  from  what  he  said," 



"  Well,  there's  one  thing  about  it,  if  she  does  that  thing 
again  this  afternoon,  I'll  go  in  there  and  break  that  old  or 
gan  up  into  kindling-wood."  Wilson  set  his  mouth  hard, 
and  shook  his  head  again. 

Alma  gave  little  side  glances  up  at  him,  her  tone  was 
deprecatory,  but  her  face  was  full  of  soft  smiles.  "  I  sup 
pose  she  does  feel  dreadfully  about  it,"  said  she.  "  I  can't 
help  feeling  kind  of  guilty,  taking  her  place." 

"  I  don't  see  how  you're  to  blame.  It's  outrageous,  her 
acting  so." 

"The  choir  gave  her  a  photograph  album  last  week, 
didn't  they?" 

"  Yes.  They  went  there  last  Thursday  night,  and  gave  her 
an  album  and  a  surprise-party.  She  ought  to  behave  herself." 

"  Well,  she's  sung  there  so  long,  I  suppose  it  must  be 
dreadful  hard  for  her  to  give  it  up." 

Other  people  going  home  from  church  were  very  near 
Wilson  and  Alma.  She  spoke  softly  that  they  might  not 
hear ;  he  did  not  lower  his  voice  in  the  least.  Presently 
Alma  stopped  before  a  gate. 

"  What  are  you  stopping  here  for  ?"  asked  Wilson. 

"  Minnie  Lansing  wanted  me  to  come  and  stay  with  her 
this  noon." 

"  You're  going  home  with  me." 

"  I'm  afraid  I'll  put  your  mother  out." 

"  Put  mother  out !  I  told  her  yea  were  coming,  this 
morning.  She's  got  all  ready  for  you.  Come  along  ;  don't 
stand  here." 

He  did  not  tell  Alma  of  the  pugnacious  spirit  with  which 
his  mother  had  received  the  announcement  of  her  coming, 
and  how  she  had  stayed  at  home  to  prepare  the  dinner,  and 
make  a  parade  of  her  hard  work  and  her  injury. 


Wilson's  mother  was  the  reason  why  he  did  not  marry 
Alma.  He  would  not  take  his  wife  home  to  live  with  her, 
and  was  unable  to  support  separate  establishments.  Alma 
was  willing  enough  to  be  married  and  put  up  with  Wilson's 
mother,  but  she  did  not  complain  of  his  decision.  Her  deli 
cate  blond  features  grew  sharper,  and  her  blue  eyes  more 
hollow.  She  had  had  a  certain  fine  prettiness,  but  now  she 
was  losing  it,  and  beginning  to  look  old,  and  there  was 
a  prim,  angular,  old  maiden  carnage  about  her  narrow 

Wilson  never  noticed  it,  and  never  thought  of  Alma  as 
not  possessed  of  eternal  youth,  or  capable  of  losing  or  re 
gretting  it. 

"  Come  along,  Alma,"  said  he  ;  and  she  followed  meekly 
after  him  down  the  street. 

Soon  after  they  passed  Candace  Whitcomb's  house,  the 
minister  went  up  the  front  walk  and  rang  the  bell.  The 
pale  profile  at  the  window  had  never  stirred  as  he  opened 
the  gate  and  came  up  the  walk.  However,  the  door  was 
promptly  opened,  in  response  to  his  ring.  "  Good-morning, 
Miss  Whitcomb,"  said  the  minister. 

"  6?^^-morning."  Candace  gave  a  sweeping  toss  of  her 
head  as  she  spoke.  There  was  a  fierce  upward  curl  to  her 
thin  nostrils  and  her  lips,  as  if  she  scented  an  adversary. 
Her  black  eyes  had  two  tiny  cold  sparks  of  fury  in  them, 
like  an  enraged  bird's.  She  did  not  ask  the  minister  to 
enter,  but  he  stepped  lumberingly  into  the  entry,  and  she 
retreated  rather  than  led  the  way  into  her  little  parlor.  He 
settled  into  the  great  rocking-chair  and  wiped  his  face. 
Candace  sat  down  again  in  her  old  place  by  the  window. 
She  was  a  tall  woman,  but  very  slender  and  full  of  pliable 
motions,  like  a  blade  of  grass. 


"  It's  a — very  pleasant  day,"  said  the  minister. 

Candace  made  no  reply.  She  sat  still,  with  her  head 
drooping.  The  wind  stirred  the  looped  lace-curtains ;  a 
tall  rose-tree  outside  the  window  waved ;  soft  shadows 
floated  through  the  room.  Candace's  parlor  organ  stood  in 
front  of  an  open  window  that  faced  the  church;  on  the 
corner  was  a  pitcher  with  a  bunch  of  white  lilacs.  The  whole 
room  was  scented  with  them.  Presently  the  minister  looked 
over  at  them  and  sniffed  pleasantly. 

"  You  have — some  beautiful — lilacs  there." 

Candace  did  not  speak.  Every  line  of  her  slender  figure 
looked  flexible,  but  it  was  a  flexibility  more  resistant  than 

The  minister  looked  at  her.  He  filled  up  the  great  rock 
ing-chair  ;  his  arms  in  his  shiny  black  coat-sleeves  rested 
squarely  and  comfortably  upon  the  hair-cloth  arms  of  the 

"  Well,  Miss  Whitcomb,  I  suppose  I — may  as  well  come 
to  —  the  point.  There  was  —  a  little  —  matter  I  wished  to 
speak  to  you  about.  I  don't  suppose  you  were — at  least  I 
can't  suppose  you  were — aware  of  it,  but — this  morning, 
during  the  singing  by  the  choir,  you  played  and — sung  a  lit 
tle  too — loud.  That  is,  with — the  windows  open.  It — dis 
turbed  us — a  little.  I  hope  you  won't  feel  hurt — my  dear 
Miss  Candace,  but  I  knew  you  would  rather  I  would  speak 
of  it,  for  I  knew — you  would  be  more  disturbed  than  any 
body  else  at  the  idea  of  such  a  thing." 

Candace  did  not  raise  her  eyes ;  she  looked  as  if  his 
words  might  sway  her  through  the  window.  "  I  ain't  dis 
turbed  at  it,"  said  she.  "  I  did  it  on  purpose  ;  I  meant  to." 

The  minister  looked  at  her. 

"  You  needn't  look  at  me.     I  know  jest  what  I'm  about 


I  sung  the  way  I  did  on  purpose,  an*  I'm  goin'  to  do  it  again, 
an'  I'd  like  to  see  you  stop  me.  I  guess  I've  got  a  right  to 
set  down  to  my  own  organ,  an'  sing  a  psalm  tune  on  a  Sab 
bath  day,  'f  I  want  to;  an'  there  ain't  no  amount  of  talkin' 
an'  palaverin'  a-goin'  to  stop  me.  See  there !"  Candace 
swung  aside  her  skirts  a  little.  "  Look  at  that !" 

The  minister  looked.  Candace's  feet  were  resting  on  a 
large  red-plush  photograph  album. 

"  Makes  a  nice  footstool,  don't  it  ?"  said  she. 

The  minister  looked  at  the  album,  then  at  her ;  there  was 
a  slowly  gathering  alarm  in  his  face  ;  he  began  to  think  she 
was  losing  her  reason. 

Candace  had  her  eyes  full  upon  him  now,  and  her  head 
up.  She  laughed,  and  her  laugh  was  almost  a  snarl.  "  Yes ; 
I  thought  it  would  make  a  beautiful  footstool,"  said  she. 
"  I've  been  wantin'  one  for  some  time."  Her  tone  was  full 
of  vicious  irony. 

"Why,  miss — "  began  the  minister;  but  she  interrupted 
him : 

"  I  know  what  you're  a-goin'  to  say,  Mr.  Pollard,  an'  now 
I'm  goin'  to  have  my  say ;  I'm  a-goin'  to  speak.  I  want  to 
know  what  you  think  of  folks  that  pretend  to  be  Christians 
treatin'  anybody  the  way  they've  treated  me  ?  Here  I've 
sung  in  those  singin'-seats  forty  year.  I  'ain't  never  missed 
a  Sunday,  except  when  I've  been  sick,  an'  I've  gone  an'  sung 
a  good  many  times  when  I'd  better  been  in  bed,  an'  now  I'm 
turned  out  without  a  word  of  warnin'.  My  voice  is  jest  as 
good  as  ever  'twas ;  there  can't  anybody  say  it  ain't.  It 
wa'n't  ever  quite  so  high-pitched  as  that  Way  girl's,  mebbe  ; 
but  she  flats  the  whole  durin'  time.  My  voice  is  as  good  an' 
high  to-day  as  it  was  twenty  year  ago ;  an*  if  it  wa'n't,  I'd 
like  to  know  where  the  Christianity  comes  in.  I'd  like  to 


know  if  it  wouldn't  be  more  to  the  credit  of  folks  in  a  church 
to  keep  an  old  singer  an'  an  old  minister,  if  they  didn't  sing 
an'  hold  forth  quite  so  smart  as  they  used  to,  ruther  than 
turn  'em  off  an'  hurt  their  feelin's.  I  guess  it  would  be  full 
as  much  to  the  glory  of  God.  S'pose  the  singin'  an'  the 
preachin'  wa'n't  quite  so  good,  what  difference  would  it  make  ? 
Salvation  don't  hang  on  anybody's  hittin'  a  high  note,  that 
I  ever  heard  of.  Folks  are  gettin'  as  high-steppin'  an' 
fussy  in  a  meetin'-house  as  they  are  in  a  tavern,  nowadays. 
S'pose  they  should  turn  you  off,  Mr.  Pollard,  come  an'  give 
you  a  photograph  album,  an'  tell  you  to  clear  out,  how'd  you 
like  it  ?  I  ain't  findin'  any  fault  with  your  preachin' ;  it  was 
always  good  enough  to  suit  me  \  but  it  don't  stand  to  reason 
folks  '11  be  as  took  up  with  your  sermons  as  when  you  was  a 
young  man.  You  can't  expect  it.  S'pose  they  should  turn 
you  out  in  your  old  age,  an'  call  in  some  young  bob  squirt, 
how'd  you  feel  ?  There's  William  Emmons,  too  ;  he's  three 
years  older'n  I  am,  if  he  does  lead  the  choir  an'  run  all  the 
singin'  in  town.  If  my  voice  has  gi'en  out,  it  Stan's  to  rea 
son  his  has.  It  ain't,  though.  William  Emmons  sings  jest 
as  well  as  he  ever  did.  Why  don't  they  turn  him  out  the 
way  they  have  me,  an'  give  him  a  photograph  album  ?  I 
dun  know  but  it  would  be  a  good  idea  to  send  everybody, 
as  soon  as  they  get  a  little  old  an'  gone  by,  an'  young  folks 
begin  to  push,  onto  some  desert  island,  an'  give  'em  each  a 
photograph  album.  Then  they  can  sit  down  an'  look  at 
pictures  the  rest  of  their  days.  Mebbe  government  '11  take 
it  up. 

"  There  they  come  here  last  week  Thursday,  all  the  choir, 
jest  about  eight  o'clock  in  the  evenin',  an'  pretended  they'd 
come  to  give  me  a  nice  little  surprise.  Surprise !  h'm ! 
Brought  cake  an'  oranges,  an'  was  jest  as  nice  as  they  could 


be,  an'  I  was  real  tickled.  I  never  had  a  surprise-party  be 
fore  in  my  life.  Jenny  Carr  she  played,  an'  they  wanted  me 
to  sing  alone,  an'  I  never  suspected  a  thing.  I've  been  mad 
ever  since  to  think  what  a  fool  I  was,  an'  how  they  must 
have  laughed  in  their  sleeves. 

"  When  they'd  gone  I  found  this  photograph  album  on  the 
table,  all  done  up  as  nice  as  you  please,  an'  directed  to  Miss 
Candace  Whitcomb  from  her  many  friends,  an'  I  opened  it, 
an'  there  was  the  letter  inside  givin'  me  notice  to  quit. 

"  If  they'd  gone  about  it  any  decent  way,  told  me  right 
out  honest  that  they'd  got  tired  of  me,  an'  wanted  Alma 
Way  to  sing  instead  of  me,  I  wouldn't  minded  so  much ;  I 
should  have  been  hurt  'nough,  for  I'd  felt  as  if  some  that 
had  pretended  to  be  my  friends  wa'n't ;  but  it  wouldn't  have 
been  as  bad  as  this.  They  said  in  the  letter  that  they'd  al 
ways  set  great  value  on  my  services,  an'  it  wa'n't  from  any 
lack  of  appreciation  that  they  turned  me  off,  but  they  thought 
the  duty  was  gettin'  a  little  too  arduous  for  me.  H'm  !  I 
hadn't  complained.  If  they'd  turned  me  right  out  fair  an' 
square,  showed  me  the  door,  an'  said,  '  Here,  you  get  out,' 
but  to  go  an'  spill  molasses,  as  it  were,  all  over  the  thresh 
old,  tryin'  to  make  me  think  it's  all  nice  an'  sweet- — 

"  I'd  sent  that  photograph  album  back  quick's  I  could 
pack  it,  but  I  didn't  know  who  started  it,  so  I've  used  it 
for  a  footstool.  It's  all  it's  good  for,  'cordin'  to  my  way 
of  thinkin'.  An'  I  ain't  been  particular  to  get  the  dust  off 
my  shoes  before  I  used  it  neither." 

Mr.  Pollard,  the  minister,  sat  staring.  He  did  not  look 
at  Candace  ;  his  eyes  were  fastened  upon  a  point  straight 
ahead.  He  had  a  look  of  helpless  solidity,  like  a  block  of 
granite.  This  country  minister,  with  his  steady,  even  tem 
perament,  treading  with  heavy  precision  his  one  track  for 


over  forty  years,  having  nothing  new  in  his  life  except  the 
new  sameness  of  the  seasons,  and  desiring  nothing  new,  was 
incapable  of  understanding  a  woman  like  this,  who  had  lived 
as  quietly  as  he,  and  all  the  time  held  within  herself  the  ele 
ments  of  revolution.  He  could  not  account  for  such  vio 
lence,  such  extremes,  except  in  a  loss  of  reason.  He  had  a 
conviction  that  Candace  was  getting  beyond  herself.  He 
himself  was  not  a  typical  New-Englander ;  the  national  ele 
ments  of  character  were  not  pronounced  in  him.  He  was 
aghast  and  bewildered  at  this  outbreak,  which  was  tropical, 
and  more  than  tropical,  for  a  New  England  nature  has  a 
floodgate,  and  the  power  which  it  releases  is  an  accumula 
tion.  Candace  Whitcomb  had  been  a  quiet  woman,  so  deli 
cately  resolute  that  the  quality  had  been  scarcely  noticed  in 
her,  and  her  ambition  had  been  unsuspected.  Now  the  reso 
lution  and  the  ambition  appeared  raging  over  her  whole 

She  began  to  talk  again.  "  I've  made  up  my  mind  that 
I'm  goin'  to  sing  Sundays  the  way  I  did  this  mornin',  an'  I 
don't  care  what  folks  say,"  said  she.  "  I've  made  up  my 
mind  that  I'm  goin'  to  take  matters  into  my  own  hands. 
I'm  goin'  to  let  folks  see  that  I  ain't  trod  down  quite  flat, 
that  there's  a  little  rise  left  in  me.  I  ain't  goin'  to  give  up 
beat  yet  a  while  ;  an'  I'd  like  to  see  anybody  stop  me.  If 
I  ain't  got  a  right  to  play  a  psalm  tune  on  my  organ  an' 
sing,  I'd  like  to  know.  If  you  don't  like  it,  you  can  move 
the  meetin'-house." 

Candace  had  had  an  inborn  reverence  for  clergymen.  She 
had  always  treated  Mr.  Pollard  with  the  utmost  deference. 
Indeed,  her  manner  toward  all  men  had  been  marked  by  a 
certain  delicate  stiffness  and  dignity.  Now  she  was  talking 
to  the  old  minister  with  the  homely  freedom  with  which  she 


might  have  addressed  a  female  gossip  over  the  back  fence. 
He  could  not  say  much  in  return.  He  did  not  feel  compe 
tent  to  make  headway  against  any  such  tide  of  passion  j  all 
he  could  do  was  to  let  it  beat  against  him.  He  made  a  few 
expostulations,  which  increased  Candace's  vehemence ;  he 
expressed  his  regret  over  the  whole  affair,  and  suggested 
that  they  should  kneel  and  ask  the  guidance  of  the  Lord  in 
the  matter,  that  she  might  be  led  to  see  it  all  in  a  different 

Candace  refused  flatly.  "  I  don't  see  any  use  prayin' 
about  it,"  said  she.  "  I  don't  think  the  Lord's  got  much  to 
do  with  it,  anyhow." 

It  was  almost  time  for  the  afternoon  service  when  the 
minister  left.  He  had  missed  his  comfortable  noontide  rest, 
through  this  encounter  with  his  revolutionary  parishioner. 
After  the  minister  had  gone,  Candace  sat  by  the  window 
and  waited.  The  bell  rang,  and  she  watched  the  people 
file  past.  When  her  nephew  Wilson  Ford  with  Alma  ap 
peared,  she  grunted  to  herself.  "  She's  thin  as  a  rail,"  said 
she ;  "  guess  there  won't  be  much  left  of  her  by  the  time 
Wilson  gets  her.  Little  soft-spoken  nippin'  thing,  she 
wouldn't  make  him  no  kind  of  a  wife,  anyway.  Guess  it's 
jest  as  well." 

When  the  bell  had  stopped  tolling,  and  all  the  people  en 
tered  the  church,  Candace  went  over  to  her  organ  and 
seated  herself.  She  arranged  a  singing-book  before  her, 
and  sat  still,  waiting.  Her  thin,  colorless  neck  and  temples 
were  full  of  beating  pulses  ;  her  black  eyes  were  bright  and 
eager ;  she  leaned  stiffly  over  toward  the  music-rack,  to  hear 
better.  When  the  church  organ  sounded  out  she  straight 
ened  herself;  her  long  skinny  fingers  pressed  her  own  organ- 
keys  with  nervous  energy.  She  worked  the  pedals  with  all 


her  strength ;  all  her  slender  body  was  in  motion.  When 
the  first  notes  of  Alma's  solo  began,  Candace  sang.  She 
had  really  possessed  a  fine  voice,  and  it  was  wonderful  how 
little  she  had  lost  it.  Straining  her  throat  with  jealous  fury, 
her  notes  were  still  for  the  main  part  true.  Her  voice  filled 
the  whole  room ;  she  sang  with  wonderful  fire  and  expres 
sion.  That,  at  least,  mild  little  Alma  Way  could  never  emu 
late.  She  was  full  of  steadfastness  and  unquestioning 
constancy,  but  there  were  in  her  no  smouldering  fires  of  am 
bition  and  resolution.  Music  was  not  to  her  what  it  had 
been  to  her  older  rival.  To  this  obscure  woman,  kept  re 
lentlessly  by  circumstances  in  a  narrow  track,  singing  in  the 
village  choir  had  been  as  much  as  Italy  was  to  Napoleon 
—  and  now  on  her  island  of  exile  she  was  still  showing 

After  the  church  service  was  done,  Candace  left  the  or 
gan  and  went  over  to  her  old  chair  by  the  window.  Her 
knees  felt  weak,  and  shook  under  her.  She  sat  down,  and 
leaned  back  her  head.  There  were  red  spots  on  her  cheeks. 
Pretty  soon  she  heard  a  quick  slam  of  her  gate,  and  an  im 
petuous  tread  on  the  gravel-walk.  She  looked  up,  and  there 
was  her  nephew  Wilson  Ford  hurrying  up  to  the  door.  She 
cringed  a  little,  then  she  settled  herself  more  firmly  in  her 

Wilson  came  into  the  room  with  a  rush.  He  left  the  door 
open,  and  the  wind  slammed  it  to  after  him. 

"  Aunt  Candace,  where  are  you  ?"  he  called  out,  in  a  loud 

She  made  no  reply.  He  looked  around  fiercely,  and  his 
eyes  seemed  to  pounce  upon  her. 

"  Look  here,  Aunt  Candace,"  said  he,  "  are  you  crazy  ?" 
Candace  said  nothing.  "  Aunt  Candace !"  She  did  not 


seem  to  see  him.  "  If  you  don't  answer  me,"  said  Wilson, 
"  I'll  just  go  over  there  and  pitch  that  old  organ  out  of  the 
window !" 

"  Wilson  Ford  !"  said  Candace,  in  a  voice  that  was  almost 
a  scream. 

"  Well,  what  say !  What  have  you  got  to  say  for  your 
self,  acting  the  way  you  have  ?  I  tell  you  what  'tis,  Aunt 
Candace,  I  won't  stand  it." 

"  I'd  like  to  see  you  help  yourself." 

"  I  will  help  myself.  I'll  pitch  that  old  organ  out  of  the 
window,  and  then  I'll  board  up  the  window  on  that  side  of 
your  house.  Then  we'll  see." 

"  It  ain't  your  house,  and  it  won't  never  be." 

"  Who  said  it  was  my  house  ?  You're  my  aunt,  and  I've 
got  a  little  lookout  for  the  credit  of  the  family.  Aunt  Can- 
dace,  what  are  you  doing  this  way  for  ?" 

"  It  don't  make  no  odds  what  I'm  doin'  so  for.  I  ain't 
bound  to  give  my  reasons  to  a  young  fellar  like  you,  if  you 
do  act  so  mighty  toppin'.  But  I'll  tell  you  one  thing,  Wilson 
Ford,  after  the  way  you've  spoke  to-day,  you  sha'n't  never 
have  one  cent  of  my  money,  an'  you  can't  never  marry  that 
Way  girl  if  you  don't  have  it.  You  can't  never  take  her 
home  to  live  with  your  mother,  an'  this  house  would  have 
been  mighty  nice  an'  convenient  for  you  some  day.  Now 
you  won't  get  it.  I'm  goin'  to  make  another  will.  I'd  made 
one,  if  you  did  but  know  it.  Now  you  won't  get  a  cent  of 
my  money,  you  nor  your  mother  neither.  An'  I  ain't  goin' 
to  live  a  dreadful  while  longer,  neither.  Now  I  wish  you'd 
go  home  ;  I  want  to  lay  down.  I'm  'bout  sick." 

Wilson  could  not  get  another  word  from  his  aunt.  His 
indignation  had  not  in  the  least  cooled.  Her  threat  of  dis 
inheriting  him  did  not  cow  him  at  all ;  he  had  too  much 


rough  independence,  and  indeed  his  aunt  Candace's  house 
had  always  been  too  much  of  an  air-castle  for  him  to  con 
template  seriously.  Wilson,  with  his  burly  frame  and  his 
headlong  common-sense,  could  have  little  to  do  with  air- 
castles,  had  he  been  hard  enough  to  build  them  over  graves. 
Still,  he  had  not  admitted  that  he  never  could  marry  Alma. 
All  his  hopes  were  based  upon  a  rise  in  his  own  fortunes, 
not  by  some  sudden  convulsion,  but  by  his  own  long  and 
steady  labor.  Some  time,  he  thought,  he  should  have  saved 
enough  for  the  two  homes. 

He  went  out  of  his  aunt's  house  still  storming.  She 
arose  after  the  door  had  shut  behind  him,  and  got  out  into 
the  kitchen.  She  thought  that  she  would  start  a  fire  and 
make  a  cup  of  tea.  She  had  not  eaten  anything  all  day. 
She  put  some  kindling-wood  into  the  stove  and  touched  a 
match  to  it ;  then  she  went  back  to  the  sitting-room,  and  settled 
down  again  into  the  chair  by  the  window.  The  fire  in  the 
kitchen-stove  roared,  and  the  light  wood  was  soon  burned 
out.  She  thought  no  more  about  it.  She  had  not  put  on 
the  teakettle.  Her  head  ached,  and  once  in  a  while  she 
shivered.  She  sat  at  the  window  while  the  afternoon  waned 
and  the  dusk  came  on.  At  seven  o'clock  the  meeting  bell 
rang  again,  and  the  people  flocked  by.  This  time  she  did 
not  stir.  She  had  shut  her  parlor  organ.  She  did  not  need 
to  out-sing  her  rival  this  evening ;  there  was  only  congrega 
tional  singing  at  the  Sunday-night  prayer-meeting. 

She  sat  still  until  it  was  nearly  time  for  meeting  to  be 
done ;  her  head  ached  harder  and  harder,  and  she  shivered 
more.  Finally  she  arose.  "  Guess  I'll  go  to  bed,"  she  mut 
tered.  She  went  about  the  house,  bent  over  and  shaking,  to 
lock  the  doors.  She  stood  a  minute  in  the  back  door,  look 
ing  over  the  fields  to  the  woods.  There  was  a  red  light  ovef 


there.  "  The  woods  are  on  fire,"  said  Candace.  She  watched 
with  a  dull  interest  the  flames  roll  up,  withering  and  destroy 
ing  the  tender  green  spring  foliage.  The  air  was  full  of 
smoke,  although  the  fire  was  half  a  mile  away. 

Candace  locked  the  door  and  went  in.  The  trees  with 
their  delicate  garlands  of  new  leaves,  with  the  new  nests  of 
song  birds,  might  fall,  she  was  in  the  roar  of  an  intenser 
fire  ;  the  growths  of  all  her  springs  and  the  delicate  wonted- 
ness  of  her  whole  life  were  going  down  in  it.  Candace  went 
to  bed  in  her  little  room  off  the  parlor,  but  she  could  not 
sleep.  She  lay  awake  all  night.  In  the  morning  she  crawled 
to  the  door  and  hailed  a  little  boy  who  was  passing.  She  bade 
him  go  for  the  doctor  as  quickly  as  he  could,  then  to  Mrs. 
Ford's,  and  ask  her  to  come  over.  She  held  on  to  the  door 
while  she  was  talking.  The  boy  stood  staring  wonderingly 
at  her.  The  spring  wind  fanned  her  face.  She  had  drawn 
on  a  dress  skirt  and  put  her  shawl  over  her  shoulders,  and 
her  gray  hair  was  blowing  over  her  red  cheeks. 

She  shut  the  door  and  went  back  to  her  bed.  She  never 
arose  from  it  again.  The  doctor  and  Mrs.  Ford  came  and 
looked  after  her,  and  she  lived  a  week.  Nobody  but  herself 
thought  until  the  very  last  that  she  would  die ;  the  doctor 
called  her  illness  merely  a  light  run  of  fever ;  she  had  her 
senses  fully. 

But  Candace  gave  up  at  the  first.  "  It's  my  last  sickness," 
she  said  to  Mrs.  Ford  that  morning  when  she  first  entered ; 
and  Mrs.  Ford  had  laughed  at  the  notion;  but  the  sick 
woman  held  to  it.  She  did  not  seem  to  suffer  much  physi 
cal  pain ;  she  only  grew  weaker  and  weaker,  but  she  was 
distressed  mentally.  She  did  not  talk  much,  but  her  eyes 
followed  everybody  with  an  agonized  expression. 

On  Wednesday  William  Emmons  came  to  inquire  for  her. 


Candace  heard  him  out  in  the  parlor.  She  tried  to  raise 
herself  on  one  elbow  that  she  might  listen  better  to  his 

"  William  Emmons  come  in  to  ask  how  you  was,"  Mrs. 
Ford  said,  after  he  was  gone. 

"  I — heard  him,"  replied  Candace.  Presently  she  spoke 
again.  "Nancy,"  said  she,  "where's  that  photograph 
album  ?" 

"  On  the  table,"  replied  her  sister,  hesitatingly. 

"  Mebbe — you'd  better—brush  it  up  a  little." 


Sunday  morning  Candace  wished  that  the  minister  should 
be  asked  to  come  in  at  the  noon  intermission.  She  had 
refused  to  see  him  before.  He  came  and  prayed  with  her, 
and  she  asked  his  forgiveness  for  the  way  she  had  spoken 
the  Sunday  before.  "  I — hadn't  ought  to — spoke  so,"  said 
she.  "  I  was — dreadful  wrought  up." 

"  Perhaps  it  was  your  sickness  coming  on,"  said  the  min 
ister,  soothingly. 

Candace  shook  her  head.  "  No — it  wa'n't.  I  hope  the 
Lord  will — forgive  me." 

After  the  minister  had  gone,  Candace  still  appeared  un 
happy.  Her  pitiful  eyes  followed  her  sister  everywhere  with 
the  mechanical  persistency  of  a  portrait. 

"  What  is  it  you  want,  Candance  ?"  Mrs.  Ford  said  at  last. 
She  had  nursed  her  sister  faithfully,  but  once  in  a  while  her 
impatience  showed  itself. 

"  Nancy !" 

"What  say?" 

"  I  wish — you'd  go  out  when — meetin's  done,  an' — head 
off  Alma  an'  Wilson,  an' — ask  'em  to  come  in.  I  feel  as  if — 
I'd  like  to— hear  her  sing." 


Mrs.  Ford  stared.     "  Well,"  said  she. 

The  meeting  was  now  in  session.  The  windows  were  all 
open,  for  it  was  another  warm  Sunday.  Candace  lay  listen 
ing  to  the  music  when  it  began,  and  a  look  of  peace  came 
over  her  face.  Her  sister  had  smoothed  her  hair  back,  and 
put  on  a  clean  cap.  The  white  curtain  in  the  bedroom 
window  waved  in  the  wind  like  a  white  sail.  Candace  al 
most  felt  as  if  she  were  better,  but  the  thought  of  death 
seemed  easy. 

Mrs.  Ford  at  the  parlor  window  watched  for  the  meeting 
to  be  out.  When  the  people  appeared,  she  ran  down  the 
walk  and  waited  for  Alma  and  Wilson.  When  they  came 
she  told  them  what  Candace  wanted,  and  they  all  went  in 

"Here's  Alma  an'  Wilson,  Candace,"  said  Mrs.  Ford, 
leading  them  to  the  bedroom  door. 

Candace  smiled.  "Come  in,"  she  said,  feebly.  And 
Alma  and  Wilson  entered  and  stood  beside  the  bed.  Can- 
dace  continued  to  look  at  them,  the  smile  straining  her 

"  Wilson !" 

"  What  is  it,  Aunt  Candace  ?" 

"I  ain't  altered  that — will.  You  an'  Alma  can — come 
here  an' — live — when  I'm — gone.  Your  mother  won't  mind 
livin'  alone.  Alma  can  have — all — my  things." 

"  Don't,  Aunt  Candace."  Tears  were  running  over  Wil 
son's  cheeks,  and  Alma's  delicate  face  was  all  of  a  quiver. 

"  I  thought — maybe — Alma  'd  be  willin'  to — sing  for  me," 
said  Candace. 

"  What  do  you  want  me  to  sing?"  Alma  asked,  in  a  trem 
bling  voice. 

" '  Jesus,  lover  of  my  soul.'  " 


Alma,  standing  there  beside  Wilson,  began  to  sing.  At 
first  she  could  hardly  control  her  voice,  then  she  sang 
sweetly  and  clearly. 

Candace  lay  and  listened.  Her  face  had  a  holy  and  ra 
diant  expression.  When  Alma  stopped  singing  it  did  not 
disappear,  but  she  looked  up  and  spoke,  and  it  was  like  a 
secondary  glimpse  of  the  old  shape  of  a  forest  tree  through 
the  smoke  and  flame  of  the  transfiguring  fire  the  instant 
before  it  falls.  "You  flatted  a  little  on— soul,"  said  Can- 


"I  DON'T  care  anything  about  goin'  to  that  Fourth  of 
July  picnic,  'Liz'beth." 

"  I  wouldn't  say  anything  more  about  it,  if  I  was  you, 
Em'ly.  I'd  get  ready  an'  go." 

"  I  don't  really  feel  able  to  go,  'Liz'beth." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  why  you  ain't  able." 

"  It  seems  to  me  as  if  the  fire-crackers  an'  the  tootin*  on 
those  horns  would  drive  me  crazy ;  an'  Matilda  Jennings 
says  they're  goin'  to  have  a  cannon  down  there,  an'  fire  it 
off  every  half-hour.  I  don't  feel  as  if  I  could  stan'  it.  You 
know  my  nerves  ain't  very  strong,  'Liz'beth." 

Elizabeth  Babcock  uplifted  her  long,  delicate  nose  with 
its  transparent  nostrils,  and  sniffed.  Apparently  her  sister's 
perverseness  had  an  unacceptable  odor  to  her.  "  I  wouldn't 
talk  so  if  I  was  you,  Em'ly.  Of  course  you're  goin'.  It's 
your  turn  to,  an'  you  know  it.  I  went  to  meetin'  last  Sab 
bath.  You  just  put  on  that  dress  an'  go." 

Emily  eyed  her  sister.  She  tried  not  to  look  pleased. 
"  I  know  you  went  to  meetin'  last,"  said  she,  hesitatingly ; 
"  but — a  Fourth  of  July  picnic  is — a  little  more  of — a  rarity." 
She  fairly  jumped,  her  sister  confronted  her  with  such  sud 
den  vigor. 

"  Rarity !    Well,  I  hope  a  Fourth  of  July  picnic  ain't 

3g  A   GALA   DRESS. 

quite  such  a  treat  to  me  that  I'd  ruther  go  to  it  than  meet- 
in'  !  I  should  think  you'd  be  ashamed  of  yourself  speakin' 
so,  Em'ly  Babcock." 

Emily,  a  moment  before  delicately  alert  and  nervous  like 
her  sister,  shrank  limply  in  her  limp  black  muslin.  "  I — 
didn't  think  how  it  sounded,  'Liz'beth." 

"  Well,  I  should  say  you'd  better  think.  It  don't  sound 
very  becomin'  for  a  woman  of  your  age,  an'  professin'  what 
you  do.  Now  you'd  better  go  an'  get  out  that  dress,  an'  rip 
the  velvet  off,  an'  sew  the  lace  on.  There  won't  be  any  too 
much  time.  They'll  start  early  in  the  mornin'.  I'll  stir  up 
a  cake  for  you  to  carry,  when  I  get  tea." 

"  Don't  you  s'pose  I  could  get  along  without  a  cake  ?" 
Emily  ventured,  tremulously. 

"Well,  I  shouldn't  think  you'd  want  to  go,  an'  be  be 
holden  to  other  folks  for  your  eatin' ;  I  shouldn't." 

"  I  shouldn't  want  anything  to  eat." 

"  I  guess  if  you  go,  you're  goin'  like  other  folks.  I  ain't 
goin'  to  have  Matilda  Jennings  peekin'  an'  pryin'  an'  tellin' 
things,  if  I  know  it.  You'd  better  get  out  that  dress." 

"  Well,"  said  Emily,  with  a  long  sigh  of  remorseful  satis 
faction.  She  arose,  showing  a  height  that  would  have  ap 
proached  the  majestic  had  it  not  been  so  wavering.  The 
sisters  were  about  the  same  height,  but  Elizabeth  usually 
impressed  people  as  being  the  taller.  She  carried  herself 
with  so  much  decision  that  she  seemed  to  keep  every  inch 
of  her  stature  firm  and  taut,  old  woman  although  she  was. 

"  Let's  see  that  dress  a  minute,"  she  said,  when  Emily 
returned.  She  wiped  her  spectacles,  set  them  firmly,  and 
began  examining  the  hem  of  the  dress,  holding  it  close  to 
her  eyes.  "You're  gettin'  of  it  all  tagged  out,"  she  de 
clared,  presently.  "  I  thought  you  was.  I  thought  I  see 



some  raveilin's  hangin'  the  other  day  when  I  had  it  on. 
It's  jest  because  you  don't  stan'  up  straight.  It  ain't  any 
longer  for  you  than  it  is  for  me,  if  you  didn't  go  all  bent 
over  so.  There  ain't  any  need  of  it." 

Emily  oscillated  wearily  over  her  sister  and  the  dress. 
"  I  ain't  very  strong  in  my  back,  an'  you  know  I've  got  a 
weakness  in  my  stomach  that  henders  me  from  standin'  up 
as  straight  as  you  do,"  she  rejoined,  rallying  herself  for  a 
feeble  defence. 

"You  can  stan'  up  jest  as  well  as  I  can,  if  you're  a 
mind  to." 

"  I'll  rip  that  velvet  off  now,  if  you'll  let  me  have  the 
dress,  'Liz'beth." 

Elizabeth  passed  over  the  dress,  handling  it  gingerly. 
"  Mind  you  don't  cut  it  rippin'  of  it  off,"  said  she. 

Emily  sat  down,  and  the  dress  lay  in  shiny  black  billows 
over  her  lap.  The  dress  was  black  silk,  and  had  been  in 
its  day  very  soft  and  heavy ;  even  now  there  was  consider 
able  wear  left  in  it.  The  waist  and  over-skirt  were  trimmed 
with  black  velvet  ribbon.  Emily  ripped  off  the  velvet ;  then 
she  sewed  on  some  old-fashioned,  straight-edged  black  lace 
full  of  little  embroidered  sprigs.  The  sisters  sat  in  their 
parlor  at  the  right  of  the  front  door.  The  room  was  very 
warm,  for  there  were  two  west  windows,  and  a  hot  after 
noon  sun  was  beating  upon  them.  Out  in  front  of  the 
house  was  a  piazza,  with  a  cool  uneven  brick  floor,  and  a 
thick  lilac  growth  across  the  western  end.  The  sisters 
might  have  sat  there  and  been  comfortable,  but  they  would 

"  Set  right  out  in  the  face  an'  eyes  of  all  the  neighbors !" 
they  would  have  exclaimed  with  dismay  had  the  idea  been 
suggested.  There  was  about  these  old  women  and  all  their 

40  *  GALA  DRESS. 

belongings  a  certain  gentle  and  deprecatory  reticence.  One 
felt  it  immediately  upon  entering  their  house,  or  indeed 
upon  coming  in  sight  of  it.  There  were  never  any  heads 
at  the  windows ;  the  blinds  were  usually  closed.  Once  in 
a  while  a  passer-by  might  see  an  old  woman,  well  shielded 
by  shawl  and  scooping  sun-bonnet,  start  up  like  a  timid 
spirit  in  the  yard,  and  softly  disappear  through  a  crack  in 
the  front  door.  Out  in  the  front  yard  Emily  had  a  little 
bed  of  flowers — of  balsams  and  nasturtiums  and  portu- 
lacas;  she  tended  them  with  furtive  glances  toward  the 
road.  Elizabeth  came  out  in  the  early  morning  to  sweep 
the  brick  floor  of  the  piazza,  and  the  front  door  was  left 
ajar  for  a  hurried  flitting  should  any  one  appear. 

This  excessive  shyness  and  secrecy  had  almost  the  as 
pect  of  guilt,  but  no  more  guileless  and  upright  persons 
could  have  been  imagined  than  these  two  old  women. 
They  had  over  their  parlor  windows  full,  softly-falling,  old 
muslin  curtains,  and  they  looped  them  back  to  leave  bare 
the  smallest  possible  space  of  glass.  The  parlor  chairs  re 
treated  close  to  the  walls,  the  polish  of  the  parlor  table  lit 
up  a  dim  corner.  There  were  very  few  ornaments  in  sight ; 
the  walls  were  full  of  closets  and  little  cupboards,  and  in 
them  all  superfluities  were  tucked  away  to  protect  them 
from  dust  and  prying  eyes.  Never  a  door  in  the  house 
stood  open,  every  bureau  drawer  was  squarely  shut.  A 
whole  family  of  skeletons  might  have  been  well  hidden  in 
these  guarded  recesses ;  but  skeletons  there  were  none,  ex 
cept,  perhaps,  a  little  innocent  bone  or  two  of  old-womanly 
pride  and  sensitiveness. 

The  Babcock  sisters  guarded  nothing  more  jealously 
than  the  privacy  of  their  meals.  The  neighbors  considered 
that  there  was  a  decided  reason  for  this.  "  The  Babcock 


girls  have  so  little  to  eat  that  they're  ashamed  to  let  folks 
see  it,"  people  said.  It  was  certain  that  the  old  women 
regarded  intrusion  at  their  meals  as  an  insult,  but  it  was 
doubtful  if  they  would  not  have  done  so  had  their  table 
been  set  out  with  all  the  luxuries  of  the  season  instead  of 
scanty  bread  and  butter  and  no  sauce.  No  sauce  for  tea 
was  regarded  as  very  poor  living  by  the  village  women. 

To-night  the  Babcocks  had  tea  very  soon  after  the  lace 
was  sewed  on  the  dress.  They  always  had  tea  early. 
They  were  in  the  midst  of  it  when  the  front-door  opened, 
and  a  voice  was  heard  calling  out  in  the  hall. 

The  sisters  cast  a  dismayed  and  indignant  look  at  each 
other ;  they  both  arose ;  but  the  door  flew  open,  and  their 
little  square  tea-table,  with  its  green-and-white  china  pot  of 
weak  tea,  its  plate  of  bread  and  little  glass  dish  of  butter, 
its  two  china  cups,  and  thin  silver  teaspoons,  was  displayed 
to  view. 

"  My !"  cried  the  visitor,  with  a  little  backward  shuffle. 
"  I  do  hope  you'll  scuse  me  !  I  didn't  know  you  was  eatin' 
supper.  I  wouldn't  ha'  come  in  for  the  world  if  I'd  known. 
I'll  go  right  out ;  it  wa'n't  anything  pertickler,  anyhow." 
All  the  time  her  sharp  and  comprehensive  gaze  was  on  the 
tea-table.  She  counted  the  slices  of  bread,  she  measured 
the  butter,  as  she  talked.  The  sisters  stepped  forward  with 

"  Come  into  the  other  room,"  said  Elizabeth ;  and  the 
visitor,  still  protesting,  with  her  backward  eyes  upon  the 
tea-table,  gave  way  before  her. 

But  her  eyes  lighted  upon  something  in  the  parlor  more 
eagerly  than  they  had  upon  that  frugal  and  exclusive  table. 
The  sisters  glanced  at  each  other  in  dismay.  The  black 
silk  dress  lay  over  a  chair.  The  caller,  who  was  their 

42  A   GALA   DRESS. 

neighbor  Matilda  Jennings,  edged  toward  it  as  she  talked. 
"  I  thought  I'd  jest  run  over  an'  see  if  you  wa'n't  goin'  to 
the  picnic  to-morrow,"  she  was  saying.  Then  she  clutched 
the  dress  and  diverged.  "Oh,  you've  been  fixin'  your 
dress !"  she  said  to  Emily,  with  innocent  insinuation.  In 
sinuation  did  not  sit  well  upon  Matilda  Jennings,  none  of 
her  bodily  lines  were  adapted  to  it,  and  the  pretence  was 
quite  evident.  She  was  short  and  stout,  with  a  hard,  sal 
low  rotundity  of  cheek,  her  small  black  eyes  were  bright- 
pointed  under  fleshy  brows. 

"Yes,  I  have,"  replied  Emily,  with  a  scared  glance  at 

"  Yes,"  said  Elizabeth,  stepping  firmly  into  the  subject, 
and  confronting  Matilda  with  prim  and  resolute  blue  eyes. 
"  She  has  been  fixin'  of  it.  The  lace  was  ripped  off,  an' 
she  had  to  mend  it." 

"  It's  pretty  lace,  ain't  it  ?  I  had  some  of  the  same  kind 
on  a  mantilla  once  when  I  was  a  girl.  This  makes  me 
think  of  it.  The  sprigs  in  mine  was  set  a  little  closer.  Let 
me  see,  'Liz'beth,  your  black  silk  dress  is  trimmed  with  vel 
vet,  ain't  it  ?" 

Elizabeth  surveyed  her  calmly.  "  Yes ;  I've  always  worn 
black  velvet  on  it,"  said  she. 

Emily  sighed  faintly.  She  had  feared  that  Elizabeth 
could  not  answer  desirably  and  be  truthful. 

"  Let  me  see,"  continued  Matilda,  "  how  was  that  velvet 
put  on  your  waist  ?" 

"  It  was  put  on  peaked." 

"  In  one  peak  or  two  ?" 


"  Now  I  wonder  if  it  would  be  too  much  trouble  for  you 
jest  to  let  me  see  it  a  minute.  I've  been  thinkin'  of  fixin' 

A  GALA   DRESS.  43 

over  my  old  alpaca  a  little,  an'  I've  got  a  piece  of  black 
velvet  ribbon  I've  steamed  over,  an*  it  looks  pretty  good. 
I  thought  mebbe  I  could  put  it  on  like  yours." 

Matilda  Jennings,  in  her  chocolate  calico,  stood  as  re 
lentlessly  as  any  executioner  before  the  Babcock  sisters. 
They,  slim  and  delicate  and  pale  in  their  flabby  black  mus 
lins,  leaned  toward  each  other,  then  Elizabeth  straightened 
herself.  "  Some  time  when  it's  convenient  I'd  jest  as  soon 
show  it  as  not,"  said  she. 

"  Well,  I'd  be  much  obleeged  to  you  if  you  would,"  re 
turned  Matilda.  Her  manner  was  a  trifle  overawed,  but 
there  was  a  sharper  gleam  in  her  eyes.  Pretty  soon  she 
went  home,  and  ate  her  solitary  and  substantial  supper  of 
bread  and  butter,  cold  potatoes,  and  pork  and  beans.  Ma 
tilda  Jennings  was  as  poor  as  the  Babcocks.  She  had  never, 
like  them,  known  better  days.  She  had  never  possessed 
any  fine  old  muslins  nor  black  silks  in  her  life,  but  she  had 
always  eaten  more. 

The  Babcocks  had  always  delicately  and  unobtrusively 
felt  themselves  above  her.  There  had  been  in  their  lives  a 
faint  savor  of  gentility  and  aristocracy.  Their  father  had 
been  college-educated  and  a  doctor.  Matilda's  antecedents 
had  been  humble,  even  in  this  humble  community.  She 
had  come  of  wood-sawyers  and  garden-laborers.  In  their 
youth,  when  they  had  gone  to  school  and  played  together, 
they  had  always  realized  their  height  above  Matilda,  and 
even  old  age  and  poverty  and  a  certain  friendliness  could 
not  do  away  with  it. 

The  Babcocks  owned  their  house  and  a  tiny  sum  in  the 
bank,  upon  the  interest  of  which  they  lived.  Nobody  knew 
how  much  it  was,  nobody  would  ever  know  while  they  lived. 
They  might  have  had  more  if  they  would  have  sold  or  mort- 

44  A  GALA  DRESS. 

gaged  their  house,  but  they  would  have  died  first.  They 
starved  daintily  and  patiently  on  their  little  income.  They 
mended  their  old  muslins  and  Thibets,  and  wore  one  dress 
between  them  for  best,  taking  turns  in  going  out. 

It  seemed  inconsistent,  but  the  sisters  were  very  fond  of 
society,  and  their  reserve  did  not  interfere  with  their  pleas 
ure  in  the  simple  village  outings.  They  were  more  at  ease 
abroad  than  at  home,  perhaps  because  there  were  not  pres 
ent  so  many  doors  which  could  be  opened  into  their  secrecy. 
But  they  had  an  arbitrary  conviction  that  their  claims  to 
respect  and  consideration  would  be  forever  forfeited  should 
they  appear  on  state  occasions  in  anything  but  black  silk. 
To  their  notions  of  etiquette,  black  silk  was  as  sacred  a 
necessity  as  feathers  at  the  English  court.  They  could  not 
go  abroad  and  feel  any  self-respect  in  those  flimsy  muslins 
and  rusty  woollens,  which  were  very  flimsy  and  rusty.  The 
old  persons  in  the  village  could  hardly  remember  when  the 
Babcocks  had  a  new  dress.  The  dainty  care  with  which 
they  had  made  those  tender  old  fabrics  endure  so  long  was 
wonderful.  They  held  up  their  skirts  primly  when  they 
walked ;  they  kept  their  pointed  elbows  clear  of  chairs  and 
tables.  The  black  silk  in  particular  was  taken  off  the  min* 
ute  its  wearer  entered  her  own  house.  It  was  shaken  soft 
ly,  folded,  and  laid  away  in  a  linen  sheet. 

Emily  was  dressed  in  it  on  the  Fourth  of  July  morning 
when  Matilda  Jennings  called  for  her.  Matilda  came  in 
her  voluminous  old  alpaca,  with  her  tin  lunch-pail  on  her 
arm.  She  looked  at  Emily  in  the  black  silk,  and  her  coun 
tenance  changed.  "  My !  you  ain't  goin'  to  wear  that  black 
silk  trailin'  round  in  the  woods,  are  you  ?"  said  she. 

"  I  guess  she  won't  trail  around  much,"  spoke  up  Eliza 
beth,  "  She's  got  to  go  lookin'  decent." 

A  GALA  DRESS.  45 

Matilda's  poor  old  alpaca  had  many  a  threadbare  streak 
and  mended  slit  in  its  rusty  folds,  the  elbows  were  patched, 
it  was  hardly  respectable.  But  she  gave  the  skirt  a  defiant 
switch,  and  jerked  the  patched  elbows.  "  Well,  I  allers  be 
lieved  in  goin'  dressed  suitable  for  the  occasion,"  said  she, 
sturdily,  and  as  if  that  was  her  especial  picnic  costume  out 
of  a  large  wardrobe.  However,  her  bravado  was  not  deep 
ly  seated,  all  day  long  she  manoeuvred  to  keep  her  patches 
and  darns  out  of  sight,  she  arranged  the  skirt  nervously 
every  time  she  changed  her  position,  she  held  her  elbows 
close  to  her  sides,  and  she  made  many  little  flings  at  Emily's 
black  silk. 

The  festivities  were  nearly  over,  the  dinner  had  been 
eaten,  Matilda  had  devoured  with  relish  her  brown-bread 
and  cheese  and  cold  pork,  and  Emily  had  nibbled  daintily 
at  her  sweet-cake,  and  glanced  with  inward  loathing  at  her 
neighbor's  grosser  fare.  The  speeches  by  the  local  celebri 
ties  were  delivered,  the  cannon  had  been  fired  every  half- 
hour,  the  sun  was  getting  low  in  the  west,  and  a  golden 
mist  was  rising  among  the  ferny  undergrowth  in  the  grove. 
"  It's  gettin'  damp ;  I  can  see  it  risin',"  said  Emily,  who 
was  rheumatic ;  "  I  guess  we'd  better  walk  'round  a  little, 
an7  then  go  home." 

"  Well,"  replied  Matilda,  « I'd  jest  as  soon.  You'd  bet 
ter  hold  up  your  dress." 

The  two  old  women  adjusted  themselves  stiffly  upon  their 
feet,  and  began  ranging  the  grove,  stepping  warily  over  the 
slippery  pine-needles.  The  woods  were  full  of  merry  calls ; 
the  green  distances  fluttered  with  light  draperies.  Every 
little  while  came  the  sharp  bang  of  a  fire-cracker,  the  crash 
of  cannon,  or  the  melancholy  hoot  of  a  fish-horn.  Now 
and  then  blue  gunpowder  smoke  curled  up  with  the  golden 

46  A   GALA  DRESS. 

steam  from  the  dewy  ground.  Emily  was  near-sighted; 
she  moved  on  with  innocently  peering  eyes,  her  long  neck 
craned  forward.  Matilda  had  been  taking  the  lead,  but 
she  suddenly  stepped  aside.  Emily  walked  on  unsuspect 
ingly,  holding  up  her  precious  black  silk.  There  was  a 
quick  puff  of  smoke,  a  leap  of  flame,  a  volley  of  vicious  lit 
tle  reports,  and  poor  Emily  Babcock  danced  as  a  martyr  at 
her  fiery  trial  might  have  done;  her  gentle  dignity  com 
pletely  deserted  her.  "  Oh,  oh,  oh  !"  she  shrieked. 

Matilda  Jennings  pushed  forward ;  by  that  time  Emily 
was  standing,  pale  and  quivering,  on  a  little  heap  of  ashes. 
"  You  stepped  into  a  nest  of  fire-crackers,"  said  Matilda ; 
"  a  boy  jest  run  ;  I  saw  him.  What  made  you  stan'  there 
in  'em  ?  Why  didn't  you  get  out  ?" 

"  i — couldn't,"  gasped  Emily ;  she  could  hardly  speak. 

"  Well,  I  guess  it  ain't  done  much  harm ;  them  boys 
ought  to  be  prosecuted.  You  don't  feel  as  if  you  was  burned 
anywhere,  do  you,  Em'ly  ?" 

«  No— I  guess  not." 

"  Seems  to  me  your  dress —  Jest  let  me  look  at  your 
dress,  Em'ly.  My !  ain't  that  a  wicked  shame  !  Jest  look 
at  all  them  holes,  right  in  the  flouncin',  where  it  '11  show !" 

It  was  too  true.  The  flounce  that  garnished  the  bottom 
of  the  black  silk  was  scorched  in  a  number  of  places.  Emily 
looked  at  it  and  felt  faint.  "  I  must  go  right  home,"  she 
moaned.  "  Oh,  dear  !" 

"  Mebbe  you  can  darn  it,  if  you're  real  pertickler  about 
it,"  said  Matilda,  with  an  uneasy  air. 

Emily  said  nothing ;  she  went  home.  Her  dress  switched 
the  dust  off  the  wayside  weeds,  but  she  paid  no  attention  to 
it ;  she  walked  so  fast  that  Matilda  could  hardly  keep  up 
with  her.  When  she  reached  her  own  gate  she  swung  it 

A   GALA   DRESS.  47 

swiftly  to  before  Matilda's  face,  then  she  fled  into  the 

Elizabeth  came  to  the  parlor  door  with  a  letter  in  her 
hand.  She  cried  out,  when  she  saw  her  sister's  face, 
"  What  is  the  matter,  Em'ly,  for  pity  sakes  ?" 

"You  can't  never  go  out  again,  'Liz'beth ;  you  can't! 
you  can't !" 

"  Why  can't  I  go  out,  I'd  like  to  know  ?  What  do  you 
mean,  Em'ly  Babcock  ?" 

"  You  can't,  you  never  can  again.  I  stepped  into  some 
fire-crackers,  an'  I've  burned  some  great  holes  right  in  the 
flouncin'.  You  can't  never  wear  it  without  folks  knowin'. 
Matilda  Jennings  will  tell.  Oh,  'Liz'beth,  what  will  you 

"  Do?"  said  Elizabeth.  "Well,  I  hope  I  ain't  so  set  on 
goin'  out  at  my  time  of  life  as  all  that  comes  to.  Let's  see 
it.  H'm,  I  can  mend  that." 

"  No,  you  can't.  Matilda  would  see  it  if  you  did.  Oh, 
dear !  oh,  dear !"  Emily  dropped  into  a  corner  and  put 
her  slim  hands  over  her  face. 

"  Do  stop  actin'  so,"  said  her  sister.  "  I've  jest  had  a 
letter,  an'  Aunt  'Liz'beth  is  dead." 

After  a  little  Emily  looked  up.  "  When  did  she  die  ?'* 
she  asked,  in  a  despairing  voice. 

"  Last  week." 

"  Did  they  ask  us  to  the  funeral  ?" 

"  Of  course  they  did  ;  it  was  last  Friday,  at  two  o'clock 
in  the  afternoon.  They  knew  the  letter  couldn't  get  to  us 
till  after  the  funeral ;  but  of  course  they'd  ask  us." 

"What  did  they  say  the  matter  was?" 

"  Old  age,  I  guess,  as  much  as  anything.  Aunt  'Liz'beth 
was  a  good  deal  over  eighty." 

4g  A  GALA   DRESS. 

Emily  sat  reflectively ;  she  seemed  to  be  listening  while 
her  sister  related  more  at  length  the  contents  of  the  letter. 
Suddenly  she  interrupted.  "  'Liz'beth." 

"  Well  ?" 

"  I  was  thinkin',  'Liz'beth — you  know  those  crape  veils 
we  wore  when  mother  died  ?" 

"Well,  what  of  em?" 

"I — don't  see  why — you  couldn't — make  a  flounce  of 
those  veils,  an'  put  on  this  dress  when  you  wore  it ;  then 
she  wouldn't  know." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  I'd  wear  a  crape  flounce  for  ?" 

"Why,  mournin'  for  Aunt  'Liz'beth." 

"  Em'ly  Babcock,  what  sense  would  there  be  in  my  wear- 
in*  mournin'  when  you  didn't  ?" 

"You  was  named  for  her,  an'  it's  a  very  diff'rent  thing. 
You  can  jest  tell  folks  that  you  was  named  for  your  aunt 
that  jest  died,  an'  you  felt  as  if  you  ought  to  wear  a  little 
crape  on  your  best  dress." 

"  It  '11  be  an  awful  job  to  put  on  a  different  flounce  every 
time  we  wear  it." 

"  I'll  do  it ;  I'm  perfectly  willin'  to  do  it.  Oh,  'Liz'beth, 
I  shall  die  if  you  ever  go  out  again  an'  wear  that  dress." 

"  For  pity  sakes,  don't,  Em'ly !  I'll  get  out  those  veils 
after  supper  an'  look  at  'em." 

The  next  Sunday  Elizabeth  wore  the  black  silk  garnished 
with  a  crape  flounce  to  church.  Matilda  Jennings  walked 
home  with  her,  and  eyed  the  new  trimming  sharply.  "  Got 
a  new  flounce,  ain't  you  ?"  said  she,  finally. 

"  I  had  word  last  week  that  my  aunt  'Liz'beth  Taylor 
was  dead,  an'  I  thought  it  wa'n't  anything  more'n  fittin' 
that  I  should  put  on  a  little  crape,"  replied  Elizabeth,  with 

A  GALA  DRESS.  49 

"  Has  Em'ly  put  on  mournin'  too?" 

"  Em'ly  ain't  any  call  to.  She  wa'n't  named  after  her, 
as  I  was,  an'  she  never  saw  her  but  once,  when  she  was  a 
little  girl.  It  ain't  more'n  ten  year  since  I  saw  her.  She 
lived  out  West.  I  didn't  feel  as  if  Em'ly  had  any  call  to 
wear  crape." 

Matilda  said  no  more,  but  there  was  unquelled  suspicion 
in  her  eye  as  they  parted  at  the  Babcock  gate. 

The  next  week  a  trunk  full  of  Aunt  Elizabeth  Taylor's 
clothes  arrived  from  the  West.  Her  daughter  had  sent 
them.  There  was  in  the  trunk  a  goodly  store  of  old  wom 
an's  finery,  two  black  silks  among  the  other  gowns.  Aunt 
Elizabeth  had  been  a  dressy  old  lady,  although  she  died  in 
her  eighties.  It  was  a  great  surprise  to  the  sisters.  They 
had  never  dreamed  of  such  a  thing.  They  palpitated  with 
awe  and  delight  as  they  took  out  the  treasures.  Emily 
clutched  Elizabeth,  the  thin  hand  closing  around  the  thin 

« 'Liz'beth !" 

"What  is  it?* 

"  We — won't  say — anything  about  this  to  anybody.  We'll 
jest  go  together  to  meetin'  next  Sabbath,  an'  wear  these 
black  silks,  an'  let  Matilda  Jennings  see" 

Elizabeth  looked  at  Emily.  A  gleam  came  into  her  dim 
blue  eyes ;  she  tightened  her  thin  lips.  "  Well,  we  will" 
said  she. 

The  following  Sunday  the  sisters  wore  the  black  silks  to 
church.  During  the  week  they  appeared  together  at  a  sew 
ing  meeting,  then  at  church  again.  The  wonder  and  curios 
ity  were  certainly  not  confined  to  Matilda  Jennings.  The 
eccentricity  which  the  Babcock  sisters  displayed  in  not  go 
ing  into  society  together  had  long  been  a  favorite  topic  in 

50  A   GALA   DRESS. 

the  town.  There  had  been  a  great  deal  of  speculation  over 
it.  Now  that  they  had  appeared  together  three  consecutive 
times,  there  was  much  talk. 

On  the  Monday  following  the  second  Sunday  Matilda 
Jennings  went  down  to  the  Babcock  house.  Her  cape- 
bonnet  was  on  one-sided,  but  it  was  firmly  tied.  She 
opened  the  door  softly,  when  her  old  muscles  were  strain 
ing  forward  to  jerk  the  latch.  She  sat  gently  down  in  the 
proffered  chair,  and  displayed  quite  openly  a  worn  place 
over  the  knees  in  her  calico  gown. 

"  We  had  a  pleasant  Sabbath  yesterday,  didn't  we  ?"  said 

"Real  pleasant,"  assented  the  sisters. 

"  I  thought  we  had  a  good  discourse/' 

The  Babcocks  assented  again. 

"I  heerd  a  good  many  say  they  thought  it  was  a  good 
discourse,"  repeated  Matilda,  like  an  emphatic  chorus. 
Then  she  suddenly  leaned  forward,  and  her  face,  in  the 
depths  of  her  awry  bonnet,  twisted  into  a  benevolent  smile. 
"I  was  real  glad  to  see  you  out  together,"  she  whispered, 
with  meaning  emphasis. 

The  sisters  smiled  stiffly. 

Matilda  paused  for  a  moment ;  she  drew  herself  back,  as 
if  to  gather  strength  for  a  thrust ;  she  stopped  smiling.  "  I 
was  glad  to  see  you  out  together,  for  I  thought  it  was  too 
bad  the  way  folks  was  talkin',"  she  said. 

Elizabeth  looked  at  her.     "  How  were  they  talkin'  ?" 

"Well,  I  don'  know  as  there's  any  harm  in  my  tellin' 
you.  I've  been  thinkin'  mebbe  I  ought  to  for  some  time. 
It's  been  round  consider'ble  lately  that  you  an'  Em'ly 
didn't  get  along  well,  an'  that  was  the  reason  you  didn't  go 
out  more  together.  I  told  'em  I  hadn't  no  idea  'twas  so, 

A   GALA  DRESS.  jt 

though,  of  course,  I  couldn't  really  tell.  I  was  real  glad  to 
see  you  out  together,  'cause  there's  never  any  knowin'  how 
folks  do  get  along,  an'  I  was  real  glad  to  see  you'd  settled 
it  if  there  had  been  any  trouble." 

"  There  ain't  been  any  trouble." 

"  Well,  I'm  glad  if  there  ain't  been  any,  an'  if  there  has, 
I'm  glad  to  see  it  settled,  an'  I  know  other  folks  will  be 

Elizabeth  stood  up.  "  If  you  want  to  know  the  reason 
why  we  haven't  been  out  together,  I'll  tell  you,"  said  she. 
"  You've  been  tryin'  to  find  out  things  every  way  you  could, 
an'  now  I'll  tell  you.  You've  drove  me  to  it.  We  had  just 
one  decent  dress  between  us,  an'  Em'ly  an'  me  took  turns 
wearin'  it,  an'  Em'ly  used  to  wear  lace  on  it,  an'  I  used  to 
rip  off  the  lace  an'  sew  on  black  velvet  when  I  wore  it,  so 
folks  shouldn't  know  it  was  the  same  dress.  Em'ly  an'  me 
never  had  a  word  in  our  lives,  an'  it's  a  wicked  lie  for  folks 
to  say  we  have." 

Emily  was  softly  weeping  in  her  handkerchief;  there  was 
not  a  tear  in  Elizabeth's  eyes ;  there  were  bright  spots  on 
her  cheeks,  and  her  slim  height  overhung  Matilda  Jennings 

"  My  aunt  'Liz'beth,  that  I  was  named  for,  died  two  or 
three  weeks  ago,"  she  continued,  "  an'  they  sent  us  a  trunk 
full  of  her  clothes,  an'  there  was  two  decent  dresses  among 
'em,  an'  that's  the  reason  why  Em'ly  an'  me  have  been  out 
together  sence.  Now,  Matilda  Jennings,  you  have  found 
out  the  whole  story,  an'  I  hope  you're  satisfied." 

Now  that  the  detective  instinct  and  the  craving  inquisi- 
tiveness  which  were  so  strong  in  this  old  woman  were  satis 
fied,  she  should  have  been  more  jubilant  than  she  was.  She 
had  suspected  what  nobody  else  in  town  had  suspected  \ 

j2  A  GALA  DRESS. 

she  had  verified  her  suspicion,  and  discovered  what  the 
secrecy  and  pride  of  the  sisters  had  concealed  from  the 
whole  village,  still  she  looked  uneasy  and  subdued.  "I 
sha'n't  tell  anybody,"  said  she. 

"  You  can  tell  nobody  you're  a  mind  to." 

"  I  sha'n't  tell  nobody."  Matilda  Jennings  arose ;  she 
had  passed  the  parlor  door,  when  she  faced  about.  "I 
s'pose  I  kinder  begretched  you  that  black  silk,"  said  she, 
"or  I  shouldn't  have  cared  so  much  about  findin'  out.  I 
never  had  a  black  silk  myself,  nor  any  of  my  folks  that  I 
ever  heard  of.  I  ain't  got  nothin'  decent  to  wear  any 

There  was  a  moment's  silence.  "  We  sha'n't  lay  up  any 
thing,"  said  Elizabeth  then,  and  Emily  sobbed  responsively. 
Matilda  passed  on,  and  opened  the  outer  door.  Elizabeth 
whispered  to  her  sister,  and  Emily  nodded,  eagerly.  "  You 
tell  her,"  said  she. 

"  Matilda,"  called  Elizabeth.  Matilda  looked  back.  "  I 
was  jest  goin'  to  say  that,  if  you  wouldn't  resent  it,  it  got 
burned  some,  but  we  mended  it  nice,  that  you  was  perfectly 
welcome  to  that — black  silk.  Em'ly  an'  me  don't  really 
need  it,  and  we'd  be  glad  to  have  you  have  it." 

There  were  tears  in  Matilda  Jennings's  black  eyes,  but 
she  held  them  unwinkingly.  "  Thank  ye,"  she  said,  in  a 
gruff  voice,  and  stepped  along  over  the  piazza.,  down  the 
steps.  She  reached  Emily's  flower  garden.  The  peppery 
sweetness  of  the  nasturtiums  came  up  in  her  face ;  it  was 
quite  early  in  the  day,  and  the  portulacas  were  still  out  in 
a  splendid  field  of  crimson  and  yellow.  Matilda  turned 
about,  her  broad  foot  just  cleared  a  yellow  portulaca  which 
had  straggled  into  the  path,  but  she  did  not  notice  it.  The 
homely  old  figure  pushed  past  the  flowers  and  into  the  house 

A   GALA  DRESS.  53 

again.  She  stood  before  Elizabeth  and  Emily.  "Look 
here,"  said  she,  with  a  fine  light  struggling  out  of  her  coarse 
old  face,  "  I  want  to  tell  you — /  see  them  fire-crackers  a-six- 
'  before  Em'ly  stepped  in  'em." 


"  I  DON'T  see  how  it  happened,  for  my  part,"  Mrs.  Childs 
said.  "  Paulina,  you  set  the  table." 

"  You  counted  up  yesterday  how  many  there'd  be,  and 
you  said  twelve ;  don't  you  know  you  did,  mother  ?  So  I 
didn't  count  to-day.  I  just  put  on  the  plates,"  said  Paulina, 
smilingly  defensive. 

Paulina  had  something  of  a  helpless  and  gentle  look  when 
she  smiled.  Her  mouth  was  rather  large,  and  the  upper 
jaw  full,  so  the  smile  seemed  hardly  under  her  control. 
She  was  quite  pretty ;  her  complexion  was  so  delicate  and 
her  eyes  so  pleasant. 

"Well,  I  don't  see  how  I  made  such  a  blunder,"  her 
mother  remarked  further,  as  she  went  on  pouring  the  tea. 

On  the  opposite  side  of  the  table  were  a  plate,  a  knife 
and  fork,  and  a  little  dish  of  cranberry  sauce,  with  an  empty 
chair  before  them.  There  was  no  guest  to  fill  it. 

"It's  a  sign  somebody's  comin'  that's  hungry,"  Mrs. 
Childs'  brother's  wife  said,  with  soft  effusiveness  which  was 
out  of  proportion  to  the  words. 

The  brother  was  carving  the  turkey.  Caleb  Childs,  the 
host,  was  an  old  man,  and  his  hands  trembled.  Moreover, 
no  one,  he  himself  least  of  all,  ever  had  any  confidence  in 
his  ability  in  such  directions.  Whenever  he  helped  him- 


self  to  gravy,  his  wife  watched  anxiously  lest  he  should  spill 
it,  and  he  always  did.  He  spilled  some  to-day.  There 
was  a  great  spot  on  the  beautiful  clean  table-cloth.  Caleb 
set  his  cup  and  saucer  over  it  quickly,  with  a  little  clatter 
because  of  his  unsteady  hand.  Then  he  looked  at  his  wife. 
He  hoped  she  had  not  seen,  but  she  had. 

"  You'd  better  have  let  John  give  you  the  gravy,"  she 
said,  in  a  stern  aside. 

John,  rigidly  solicitous,  bent  over  the  turkey.  He  carved 
slowly  and  laboriously,  but  everybody  had  faith  in  him. 
The  shoulders  to  which  a  burden  is  shifted  have  the  credit 
of  being  strong.  His  wife,  in  her  best  black  dress,  sat 
smilingly,  with  her  head  canted  a  little  to  one  side.  It  was 
a  way  she  had  when  visiting.  Ordinarily  she  did  not  as 
sume  it  at  her  sister-in-law's  house,  but  this  was  an  extra 
occasion.  Her  fine  manners  spread  their  wings  involun 
tarily.  When  she  spoke  about  the  sign,  the  young  woman 
next  her  sniffed. 

"  I  don't  take  any  stock  in  signs,"  said  she,  with  a  blunt- 
ness  which  seemed  to  crash  through  the  other's  airiness 
with  such  force  as  to  almost  hurt  itself.  She  was  a  distant 
cousin  of  Mr.  Childs.  Her  husband  and  three  children 
were  with  her. 

Mrs.  Childs'  unmarried  sister,  Maria  Stone,  made  up  the 
eleven  at  the  table.  Maria's  gaunt  face  was  unhealthily 
red  about  the  pointed  nose  and  the  high  cheek-bones; 
her  eyes  looked  with  a  steady  sharpness  through  her  spec 

"  Well,  it  will  be  time  enough  to  believe  the  sign  when 
the  twelfth  one  comes,"  said  she,  with  a  summary  air.  She 
had  a  judicial  way  of  speaking.  She  had  taught  school 
ever  since  she  was  sixteen,  and  now  she  was  sixty.  She 


had  just  given  up  teaching.  It  was  to  celebrate  that,  and 
her  final  home-coming,  that  her  sister  was  giving  a  Christ 
mas  dinner  instead  of  a  Thanksgiving  one  this  year.  The 
school  had  been  in  session  during  Thanksgiving  week. 

Maria  Stone  had  scarcely  spoken  when  there  was  a  knock 
on  the  outer  door,  which  led  directly  into  the  room.  They 
all  started.  They  were  a  plain,  unimaginative  company, 
but  for  some  reason  a  thrill  of  superstitious  and  fantastic 
expectation  ran  through  them.  No  one  arose.  They  were 
all  silent  for  a  moment,  listening  and  looking  at  the  empty 
chair  in  their  midst.  Then  the  knock  came  again. 

"  Go  to  the  door,  Paulina,"  said  her  mother. 

The  young  girl  looked  at  her  half  fearfully,  but  she  rose 
at  once,  and  went  and  opened  the  door.  Everybody 
stretched  around  to  see.  A  girl  stood  on  the  stone  step 
looking  into  the  room.  There  she  stood,  and  never  said  a 
word.  Paulina  looked  around  at  her  mother,  with  her  in 
nocent,  half-involuntary  smile. 

"  Ask  her  what  she  wants,"  said  Mrs.  Childs. 

"  What  do  you  want  ?"  repeated  Paulina,  like  a  sweet  echo. 

Still  the  girl  said  nothing.  A  gust  of  north  wind  swept 
into  the  room.  John's  wife  shivered,  then  looked  around 
to  see  if  any  one  had  noticed  it. 

"  You  must  speak  up  quick  an'  tell  what  you  want,  so  we 
can  shut  the  door;  it's  cold,"  said  Mrs.  Childs. 

The  girl's  small  sharp  face  was  sheathed  in  an  old  wors 
ted  hood ;  her  eyes  glared  out  of  it  like  a  frightened  cat's. 
Suddenly  she  turned  to  go.  She  was  evidently  abashed  by 
the  company. 

"  Don't  you  want  somethin'  to  eat  ?"  Mrs.  Childs  asked, 
speaking  up  louder. 

"  It  ain't — no  matter."     She  just  mumbled  it. 



She  would  not  repeat  it.  She  was  quite  off  the  step  by 
this  time. 

"You  make  her  come  in,  Paulina,"  said  Maria  Stone, 
suddenly.  "  She  wants  something  to  eat,  but  she's  half 
scared  to  death.  You  talk  to  her." 

"  Hadn't  you  better  come  in,  and  have  something  to  eat  ?" 
said  Paulina,  shyly  persuasive. 

"Tell  her  she  can  sit  right  down  here  by  the  stove,  where 
it's  warm,  and  have  a  good  plate  of  dinner,"  said  Maria. 

Paulina  fluttered  softly  down  to  the  stone  step.  The 
chilly  snow-wind  came  right  in  her  sweet,  rosy  face.  "  You 
can  have  a  chair  by  the  stove,  where  it's  warm,  and  a  good 
plate  of  dinner,"  said  she. 

The  girl  looked  at  her. 

"  Won't  you  come  in  ?"  said  Paulina,  of  her  own  accord, 
and  always  smiling. 

The  stranger  made  a  little  hesitating  movement  forward. 

"  Bring  her  in,  quick  !  and  shut  the  door,"  Maria  called 
out  then.  And  Paulina  entered  with  the  girl  stealing  tim 
idly  in  her  wake. 

"Take  off  your  hood  an'  shawl,"  Mrs.  Childs  said,  "an' 
sit  down  here  by  the  stove,  an'  I'll  give  you  some  dinner." 
She  spoke  kindly.  She  was  a  warm-hearted  woman,  but 
she  was  rigidly  built,  and  did  not  relax  too  quickly  into 

But  the  cousin,  who  had  been  observing,  with  head  alertly 
raised,  interrupted.  She  cast  a  mischievous  glance  at 
John's  wife — the  empty  chair  was  between  them.  "  For 
pity's  sake  !"  cried  she  ;  "you  ain't  goin'  to  shove  her  off  in 
the  corner?  Why,  here's  this  chair.  She's  the  twelfth 
one.  Here's  where  she  ought  to  sit"  There  was  a  mix- 


ture  of  heartiness  and  sport  in  the  young  woman's  manner. 
She  pulled  the  chair  back  from  the  table.  "  Come  right 
over  here,"  said  she. 

There  was  a  slight  flutter  of  consternation  among  the 
guests.  They  were  all  narrow-lived  country  people.  Their 
customs  had  made  deeper  grooves  in  their  roads ;  they  were 
more  fastidious  and  jealous  of  their  social  rights  than  many 
in  higher  positions.  They  eyed  this  forlorn  girl,  in  her 
faded  and  dingy  woollens  which  fluttered  airily  and  showed 
their  pitiful  thinness. 

Mrs.  Childs  stood  staring  at  the  cousin.  She  did  not 
think  she  could  be  in  earnest. 

But  she  was.  "  Come,"  said  she ;  "  put  some  turkey  in 
this  plate,  John." 

"  Why,  it's  jest  as  the  rest  of  you  say,"  Mrs.  Childs  said, 
finally,  with  hesitation.  She  looked  embarrassed  and  doubt 

"  Say !  Why,  they  say  just  as  I  do,"  the  cousin  went  on. 
"Why  shouldn't  they?  Come  right  around  here."  She 
tapped  the  chair  impatiently. 

The  girl  looked  at  Mrs.  Childs.  "You  can  go  an'  sit 
down  there  where  she  says,"  she  said,  slowly,  in  a  con 
strained  tone. 

"  Come,"  called  the  cousin  again.  And  the  girl  took  the 
empty  chair,  with  the  guests  all  smiling  stiffly. 

Mrs.  Childs  began  filling  a  plate  for  the  new-comer. 

Now  that  her  hood  was  removed,  one  could  see  her  face 
more  plainly.  It  was  thin,  and  of  that  pale  brown  tint 
which  exposure  gives  to  some  blond  skins.  Still  there  was 
a  tangible  beauty  which  showed  through  all  that.  Her  fair 
hair  stood  up  softly,  with  a  kind  of  airy  roughness  which 
caught  the  light.  She  was  apparently  about  sixteen, 


"  What's  your  name  ?"  inquired  the  school-mistress  sister, 

The  girl  started.     "  Christine,"  she  said,  after  a  second. 

"  What  ?" 

"  Christine." 

A  little  thrill  ran  around  the  table.  The  company  looked 
at  each  other.  They  were  none  of  them  conversant  with 
the  Christmas  legends,  but  at  that  moment  the  universal 
sentiment  of  them  seemed  to  seize  upon  their  fancies.  The 
day,  the  mysterious  appearance  of  the  girl,  the  name,  which 
was  strange  to  their  ears — all  startled  them,  and  gave  them 
a  vague  sense  of  the  supernatural.  They,  however,  strug 
gled  against  it  with  their  matter-of-fact  pride,  and  threw  it 
off  directly. 

"Christine  what?"  Maria  asked  further. 

The  girl  kept  her  scared  eyes  on  Maria's  face,  but  she 
made  no  reply. 

"  What's  your  other  name  ?    Why  don't  you  speak  ?" 

Suddenly  she  rose. 

"  What  are  you  goin'  to  do  ?" 

"  I'd — ruther — go,  I  guess." 

"  What  are  you  goin'  for  ?  You  ain't  had  your  din 

"  I— can't  tell  it,"  whispered  the  girl. 

"  Can't  tell  your  name  ?" 

She  shook  her  head. 

"  Sit  down,  and  eat  your  dinner,"  said  Maria. 

There  was  a  strong  sentiment  of  disapprobation  among 
the  company.  But  when  Christine's  food  was  actually  be 
fore  her,  and  she  seemed  to  settle  down  upon  it,  like  a  bird, 
they  viewed  her  with  more  toleration.  She  was  evidently 
half  starved.  Their  discovery  of  that  fact  gave  them  at 


once  a  fellow-feeling  toward  her  on  this  feast-day,  and  a 
complacent  sense  of  their  own  benevolence. 

As  the  dinner  progressed  the  spirits  of  the  party  ap 
peared  to  rise,  and  a  certain  jollity  which  was  almost  hilar 
ity  prevailed.  Beyond  providing  the  strange  guest  plen 
tifully  with  food,  they  seemed  to  ignore  her  entirely.  Still 
nothing  was  more  certain  than  the  fact  that  they  did  not. 
Every  outburst  of  merriment  was  yielded  to  with  the  most 
thorough  sense  of  her  presence,  which  appeared  in  some 
subtle  way  to  excite  it.  It  was  as  if  this  forlorn  twelfth 
guest  were  the  foreign  element  needed  to  produce  a  state 
of  nervous  effervescence  in  those  staid,  decorous  people  who 
surrounded  her.  This  taste  of  mystery  and  unusualness, 
once  fairly  admitted,  although  reluctantly,  to  their  unaccus 
tomed  palates,  served  them  as  wine  with  their  Christmas 

It  was  late  in  the  afternoon  when  they  arose  from  the 
table.  Christine  went  directly  for  her  hood  and  shawl,  and 
put  them  on.  The  others,  talking  among  themselves,  were 
stealthily  observant  of  her.  Christine  began  opening  the 

"  Are  you  goin'  home  now  ?"  asked  Mrs.  Childs. 


"Why  not?" 

"  I  ain't  got  any." 

"  Where  did  you  come  from  ?" 

The  girl  looked  at  her.     Then  she  unlatched  the  door. 

"Stop!"  Mrs.  Childs  cried,  sharply.  "What  are  you 
goin'  for  ?  Why  don't  you  answer  ?" 

She  stood  still,  but  did  not  speak. 

"  Well,  shut  the  door  up,  an'  wait  a  minute,"  said  Mrs. 


She  stood  close  to  a  window,  and  she  stared  out  scruti- 
nizingly.  There  was  no  house  in  sight.  First  came  a  great 
yard,  then  wide  stretches  of  fields ;  a  desolate  gray  road 
curved  around  them  on  the  left.  The  sky  was  covered  with 
still,  low  clouds;  the  sun  had  not  shone  out  that  day.  The 
ground  was  all  bare  and  rigid.  Out  in  the  yard  some  gray 
hens  were  huddled  together  in  little  groups  for  warmth  ; 
their  red  combs  showed  out.  Two  crows  flew  up,  away 
over  on  the  edge  of  the  field. 

"  It's  goin'  to  snow,"  said  Mrs.  Childs. 

"  I'm  afeard  it  is,"  said  Caleb,  looking  at  the  girl.  He 
gave  a  sort  of  silent  sob,  and  brushed  some  tears  out  of  his 
old  eyes  with  the  back  of  his  hands. 

"  See  here  a  minute,  Maria,"  said  Mrs.  Childs. 

The  two  women  whispered  together ;  then  Maria  stepped 
in  front  of  the  girl,  and  stood,  tall  and  stiff  and  impres 

"  Now,  see  here,"  said  she ;  "  we  want  you  to  speak  up 
and  tell  us  your  other  name,  and  where  you  came  from,  and 
not  keep  us  waiting  any  longer." 

"  I — can't"  They  guessed  what  she  said  from  the  motion 
of  her  head.  She  opened  the  door  entirely  then  and  step 
ped  out. 

Suddenly  Maria  made  one  stride  forward  and  seized  her 
by  her  shoulders,  which  felt  like  knife-blades  through  the 
thin  clothes.  "  Well,"  said  she,  "  we've  been  fussing  long 
enough ;  we've  got  all  these  dishes  to  clear  away.  It's  bit 
ter  cold,  and  it's  going  to  snow,  and  you  ain't  going  out  of 
this  house  one  step  to-night,  no  matter  what  you  are.  You'd 
ought  to  tell  us  who  you  are,  and  it  ain't  many  folks  that 
would  keep  you  if  you  wouldn't ;  but  we  ain't  goin'  to  have 
you  found  dead  in  the  road,  for  our  own  credit.  It  ain't  on 


your  account.  Now  you  just  take  those  things  off  again, 
and  go  and  sit  down  in  that  chair." 

Christine  sat  in  the  chair.  Her  pointed  chin  dipped 
down  on  her  neck,  whose  poor  little  muscles  showed  above 
her  dress,  which  sagged  away  from  it.  She  never  looked 
up.  The  women  cleared  off  the  table,  and  cast  curious 
glances  at  her. 

After  the  dishes  were  washed  and  put  away,  the  company 
were  all  assembled  in  the  sitting-room  for  an  hour  or  so  ; 
then  they  went  home.  The  cousin,  passing  through  the 
kitchen  to  join  her  husband,  who  was  waiting  with  his  team 
at  the  door,  ran  hastily  up  to  Christine. 

"  You  stop  at  my  house  when  you  go  to-morrow  morn 
ing,"  said  she.  "  Mrs.  Childs  will  tell  you  where  'tis — half 
a  mile  below  here." 

When  the  company  were  all  gone,  Mrs.  Childs  called 
Christine  into  the  sitting-room.  "You'd  better  come  in 
here  and  sit  now,"  said  she.  "  I'm  goin'  to  let  the  kitchen 
fire  go  down;  I  ain't  goin'  to  get  another  regular  meal; 
I'm  jest  goin'  to  make  a  cup  of  tea  on  the  sittin'-room  stove 

The  sitting-room  was  warm,  and  restrainedly  comfortable 
with  its  ordinary  village  furnishings — its  ingrain  carpet,  its 
little  peaked  clock  on  a  corner  of  the  high  black  shelf,  its 
red-covered  card-table,  which  had  stood  in  the  same  spot 
for  forty  years.  There  was  a  little  newspaper-covered 
stand,  with  some  plants  on  it,  before  a  window.  There  was 
one  red  geranium  in  blossom. 

Paulina  was  going  out  that  evening.  Soon  after  the  com 
pany  went  she  commenced  to  get  ready,  and  her  mother 
and  aunt  seemed  to  be  helping  her.  Christine  was  alone 
in  the  sitting-room  for  the  greater  part  of  an  hour. 


Finally  the  three  women  came  in,  and  Paulina  stood  be 
fore  the  sitting-room  glass  for  a  last  look  at  herself.  She 
had  on  her  best  red  cashmere,  with  some  white  lace  around 
her  throat.  She  had  a  red  geranium  flower  with  some 
leaves  in  her  hair.  Paulina's  brown  hair,  which  was  rather 
thin,  was  very  silky.  It  was  apt  to  part  into  little  soft 
strands  on  her  forehead.  She  wore  it  brushed  smoothly 
back.  Her  mother  would  not  allow  her  to  curl  it. 

The  two  older  women  stood  looking  at  her.  "  Don't  you 
think  she  looks  nice,  Christine  ?"  Mrs.  Childs  asked,  in  a 
sudden  overflow  of  love  and  pride,  which  led  her  to  ask 
sympathy  from  even  this  forlorn  source. 

"  Yes,  marm."  Christine  regarded  Paulina,  in  her  red 
cashmere  and  geranium  flower,  with  sharp,  solemn  eyes. 
When  she  really  looked  at  any  one,  her  gaze  was  as  un 
flinching  as  that  of  a  child. 

There  was  a  sudden  roll  of  wheels  in  the  yard. 

"  Willard's  come  !"  said  Mrs.  Childs.  "  Run  to  the  door 
an'  tell  him  you'll  be  right  out,  Paulina,  an'  I'll  get  your 
things  ready." 

After  Paulina  had  been  helped  into  her  coat  and  hood, 
and  the  wheels  had  bowled  out  of  the  yard  with  a  quick 
dash,  the  mother  turned  to  Christine. 

"  My  daughter's  gone  to  a  Christmas  tree  over  to  the 
church,"  said  she.  "  That  was  Willard  Morris  that  came 
for  her.  He's  a  real  nice  young  man  that  lives  about  a 
mile  from  here." 

Mrs.  Childs'  tone  was  at  once  gently  patronizing  and 

When  Christine  was  shown  to  a  little  back  bedroom  that 
night,  nobody  dreamed  how  many  times  she  was  to  occupy 
it.  Maria  and  Mrs.  Childs,  who  after  the  door  was  closed 


set  a  table  against  it  softly  and  erected  a  tiltlish  pyramid 
of  milkpans,  to  serve  as  an  alarm  signal  in  case  the  strange 
guest  should  try  to  leave  her  room  with  evil  intentions,  were 
fully  convinced  that  she  would  depart  early  on  the  follow 
ing  morning. 

"  I  dun  know  but  I've  run  an  awful  risk  keeping  her," 
Mrs.  Childs  said.  "  I  don't  like  her  not  tellin'  where  she 
come  from.  Nobody  knows  but  she  belongs  to  a  gang  of 
burglars,  an'  they've  kind  of  sent  her  on  ahead  to  spy  out 
things  an'  unlock  the  doors  for  'em." 

"  I  know  it,"  said  Maria.  "  I  wouldn't  have  had  her  stay 
for  a  thousand  dollars  if  it  hadn't  looked  so  much  like  snow. 
Well,  I'll  get  up  an'  start  her  off  early  in  the  morning." 

But  Maria  Stone  could  not  carry  out  this  resolution.  The 
next  morning  she  was  ill  with  a  sudden  and  severe  attack 
of  erysipelas.  Moreover,  there  was  a  hard  snow-storm,  the 
worst  of  the  season  ;  it  would  have  been  barbarous  to  have 
turned  the  girl  out-of-doors  on  such  a  morning.  Moreover, 
she  developed  an  unexpected  capacity  for  usefulness.  She 
assisted  Pauline  about  the  housework  with  timid  alacrity, 
and  Mrs.  Childs  could  devote  all  her  time  to  her  sister. 

"  She  takes  right  hold  as  if  she  was  used  to  it,"  she  told 
Maria.  "  I'd  rather  keep  her  a  while  than  not,  if  I  only 
knew  a  little  more  about  her." 

"  I  don't  believe  but  what  I  could  get  it  out  of  her  after 
a  while  if  I  tried,"  said  Maria,  with  her  magisterial  air,  which 
illness  could  not  subdue. 

However,  even  Maria,  with  all  her  well-fostered  imperi- 
ousness,  had  no  effect  on  the  girl's  resolution ;  she  contin 
ued  as  much  of  a  mystery  as  ever.  Still  the  days  went  on, 
then  the  weeks  and  months,  and  she  remained  in  the  Childs 


None  of  them  could  tell  exactly  how  it  had  been  brought 
about.  The  most  definite  course  seemed  to  be  that  her  ar 
rival  had  apparently  been  the  signal  for  a  general  decline 
of  health  in  the  family.  Maria  had  hardly  recovered  when 
Caleb  Childs  was  laid  up  with  the  rheumatism ;  then  Mrs. 
Childs  had  a  long  spell  of  exhaustion  from  overwork  in 
nursing.  Christine  proved  exceedingly  useful  in  these 
emergencies.  Their  need  of  her  appeared  to  be  the  dom 
inant,  and  only  outwardly  evident,  reason  for  her  stay ;  still 
there  was  a  deeper  one  which  they  themselves  only  faintly 
realized — this  poor  young  girl,  who  was  rendered  almost 
repulsive  to  these  honest  downright  folk  by  her  persistent 
cloak  of  mystery,  had  somehow,  in  a  very  short  time,  melted 
herself,  as  it  were,  into  their  own  lives.  Christine  asleep 
of  a  night  in  her  little  back  bedroom,  Christine  of  a  day 
stepping  about  the  house  in  one  of  Paulina's  old  gowns, 
became  a  part  of  their  existence,  and  a  part  which  was  not 
far  from  the  nature  of  a  sweetness  to  their  senses. 

She  still  retained  her  mild  shyness  of  manner,  and  rarely 
spoke  unless  spoken  to.  Now  that  she  was  warmly  shel 
tered  and  well  fed,  her  beauty  became  evident.  She  grew 
prettier  every  day.  Her  cheeks  became  softly  dimpled; 
her  hair  turned  golden.  Her  language  was  rude  and  illit 
erate,  but  its  very  uncouthness  had  about  it  something  of  a 
soft  grace. 

She  was  really  prettier  than  Paulina. 

The  two  young  girls  were  much  together,  but  could  hardly 
be  said  to  be  intimate.  There  were  few  confidences  between 
them,  and  confidences  are  essential  for  the  intimacy  of  young 

Willard  Morris  came  regularly  twice  a  week  to  see  Pau 
lina,  and  everybody  spoke  of  them  as  engaged  to  each  other. 


Along  in  August  Mrs.  Childs  drove  over  to  town  one  af 
ternoon  and  bought  a  piece  of  cotton  cloth  and  a  little  em 
broidery  and  lace.  Then  some  fine  sewing  went  on,  but 
with  no  comment  in  the  household.  Mrs.  Childs  had  sim 
ply  said, "  I  guess  we  may  as  well  get  a  few  things  made  up 
for  you,  Paulina,  you're  getting  rather  short."  And  Pauli 
na  had  sewed  all  day  long,  with  a  gentle  industry,  when 
the  work  was  ready. 

There  was  a  report  that  the  marriage  was  to  take  place 
on  Thanksgiving  Day.  But  about  the  first  of  October  Wil- 
lard  Morris  stopped  going  to  the  Childs  house.  There  was 
no  explanation.  He  simply  did  not  come  as  usual  on  Sun 
day  night,  nor  the  following  Wednesday,  nor  the  next  Sun 
day.  Paulina  kindled  her  little  parlor  fire,  whose  sticks 
she  had  laid  with  maiden  preciseness ;  she  arrayed  herself 
in  her  best  gown  and  ribbons.  When  at  nine  o'clock  Wil- 
lard  had  not  come,  she  blew  out  the  parlor  lamp,  shut  up 
the  parlor  stove,  and  went  to  bed.  Nothing  was  said  be 
fore  her,  but  there  was  much  talk  and  surmise  between 
Mrs.  Childs  and  Maria,  and  a  good  deal  of  it  went  on  be 
fore  Christine. 

It  was  a  little  while  after  the  affair  of  Cyrus  Morris's 
note,  and  they  wondered  if  it  could  have  anything  to  do 
with  that.  Cyrus  Morris  was  Willard's  uncle,  and  the  note 
affair  had  occasioned  much  distress  in  the  Childs  family 
for  a  month  back.  The  note  was  for  twenty-five  hundred 
dollars,  and  Cyrus  Morris  had  given  it  to  Caleb  Childs. 
The  time,  which  was  two  years,  had  expired  on  the  first  of 
September,  and  then  Caleb  could  not  find  the  note. 

He  had  kept  it  in  his  old-fashioned  desk,  which  stood  in 
one  corner  of  the  kitchen.  He  searched  there  a  day  and 
half  a  night,  pulling  all  the  soiled,  creasy  old  papers  out 


of  the  drawers  and  pigeon-holes  before  he  would  answer 
his  wife's  inquiries  as  to  what  he  had  lost. 

Finally  he  broke  down  and  told.  "I've  lost  that  note 
of  Morris's,"  said  he.  "  I  dun  know  what  I'm  goin'  to  do." 

He  stood  looking  gloomily  at  the  desk  with  its  piles  of 
papers.  His  rough  old  chin  dropped  down  on  his  breast. 

The  women  were  all  in  the  kitchen,  and  they  stopped 
and  stared. 

"  Why,  father,"  said  his  wife,  "  where  have  you  put  it  ?" 

"  I  put  it  here  in  this  top  drawer,  and  it  ain't  there." 

"  Let  me  look,"  said  Maria,  in  a  confident  tone.  But 
even  Maria's  energetic  and  self-assured  researches  failed. 
"  Well,  it  ain't  here,"  said  she.  "  I  don't  know  what  you've 
done  with  it." 

"  I  don't  believe  you  put  it  in  that  drawer,  father,"  said 
his  wife. 

"  It  was  in  there  two  weeks  ago.     I  see  it." 

"  Then  you  took  it  out  afterwards." 

"  I  ain't  laid  hands  on't." 

"  You  must  have  ;  it  couldn't  have  gone  off  without  hands. 
You  know  you're  kind  of  forgetful,  father." 

"  I  guess  I  know  when  I've  took  a  paper  out  of  a  drawer. 
I  know  a  leetle  somethin'  yit." 

"  Well,  I  don't  suppose  there'll  be  any  trouble  about  it,  will 
there  ?"  said  Mrs.  Childs.  "  Of  course  he  knows  he  give 
the  note,  an'  had  the  money." 

"  I  dun  know  as  there'll  be  any  trouble,  but  I'd  ruther 
give  a  hundred  dollar  than  had  it  happen." 

After  dinner  Caleb  shaved,  put  on  his  other  coat  and  hat, 
and  trudged  soberly  up  the  road  to  Cyrus  Morris's.  Cyrus 
Morris  was  an  elderly  man,  who  had  quite  a  local  reputa* 
tion  for  wealth  and  business  shrewdness.  Caleb,  who  was 


!owly-n attired  and  easily  impressed  by  another's  importance, 
always  made  a  call  upon  him  quite  a  formal  affair,  and 
shaved  and  dressed  up. 

He  was  absent  about  an  hour  to-day.  When  he  returned 
he  went  into  the  sitting-room,  where  the  women  sat  with 
their  sewing.  He  dropped  into  a  chair,  and  looked  straight 
ahead,  with  his  forehead  knitted. 

The  women  dropped  their  work  and  looked  at  him,  and 
then  at  each  other. 

"  What  did  he  say,  father  ?"  Mrs.  Childs  asked  at  length. 

"  Say !  He's  a  rascal,  that's  what  he  is,  an'  I'll  tell  him 
so,  too." 

"  Ain't  he  goin'  to  pay  it  ?" 

"  No,  he  ain't." 

"  Why,  father,  I  don't  believe  it !  You  didn't  get  hold 
of  it  straight,"  said  his  wife. 

"You'll  see." 

"Why,  what  did  he  say?" 

"  He  didn't  say  anything." 

"  Doesn't  he  remember  he  had  the  money  and  gave  the 
note,  and  has  been  paying  interest  on  it  ?"  queried  Maria. 

"  He  jest  laughed,  an'  said  'twa'n't  accordin'  to  law  to 
pay  unless  I  showed  the  note  an'  give  it  up  to  him.  He 
said  he  couldn't  be  sure  but  I'd  want  him  to  pay  it  over 
ag'in.  I  know  where  that  note  is  /" 

Caleb's  voice  had  deep  meaning  in  it.  The  women 
stared  at  him. 


"  If  s  in  Cyrus  Morris's  desk — thafs  where  it  is." 

"  Why,  father,  you're  crazy !" 

"No,  I  ain't  crazy,  nuther.  I  know  what  I'm  talkiri 
about  I—" 


"  It's  just  where  you  put  it,"  interrupted  Maria,  taking 
up  her  sewing  with  a  switch  ;  "  and  I  wouldn't  lay  the  blame 
onto  anybody  else." 

"  You'd  ought  to  ha'  looked  out  for  a  paper  like  that," 
said  his  wife.  "  I  guess  I  should  if  it  had  been  me.  If 
you've  gone  an'  lost  all  that  money  through  your  careless 
ness,  you've  done  it,  that's  all  I've  got  to  say.  I  don't  see 
what  we're  goin'  to  do." 

Caleb  bent  forward  and  fixed  his  eyes  upon  the  women. 
He  held  up  his  shaking  hand  impressively,  "^you'll  stop 
talkin'  just  a  minute,"  said  he,  "I'll  tell  you  what  I  was 
goin'  to.  Now  I'd  like  to  know  just  one  thing :  Wdrit 
Cyrus  Morris  alone  in  that  kitchen  as  much  as  fifteen  minutes 
a  week  ago  to-day  ?  Didn't  you  leave  him  there  while  you 
went  to  look  arter  me  ?  Wdrit  the  key  in  the  desk  ?  Answer 
me  that!" 

His  wife  looked  at  him  with  cold  surprise  and  severity. 
"  I  wouldn't  talk  in  any  such  way  as  that  if  I  was  you,  fa 
ther,"  said  she.  "It  don't  show  a  Christian  spirit.  It's 
jest  layin'  the  blame  of  your  own  carelessness  onto  some 
body  else.  You're  all  the  one  that's  to  blame.  An'  when 
it  comes  to  it,  you'd  never  ought  to  let  Cyrus  Morris  have 
the  money  anyhow.  I  could  have  told  you  better.  I  knew 
what  kind  of  a  man  he  was." 

"  He's  a  rascal,"  said  Caleb,  catching  eagerly  at  the  first 
note  of  foreign  condemnation  in  his  wife's  words.  "  He'd 
ought  to  be  put  in  state's-prison.  I  don't  think  much  of  his 
relations  nuther.  I  don't  want  nothin'  to  do  with  'em,  an' 
I  don't  want  none  of  my  folks  to." 

Paulina's  soft  cheeks  flushed.  Then  she  suddenly  spoke 
out  as  she  had  never  spoken  in  her  life. 

"  It  doesn't  make  it  out  because  he's  a  bad  man  that  his 


relations  are,"  said  she.  "  You  haven't  any  right  to  speak 
so,  father.  And  I  guess  you  won't  stop  me  having  any 
thing  to  do  with  them,  if  you  want  to." 

She  was  all  pink  and  trembling.  Suddenly  she  burst  out 
crying,  and  ran  out  of  the  room. 

"You'd  ought  to  be  ashamed  of  yourself,  father,"  ex 
claimed  Mrs.  Childs. 

"  I  didn't  think  of  her  takin'  on  it  so,"  muttered  Caleb, 
humbly.  "  I  didn't  mean  nothin.'  " 

Caleb  did  not  seem  like  himself  through  the  following 
days.  His  simple  old  face  took  on  an  expression  of  strained 
thought,  which  made  it  look  strange.  He  was  tottering  on 
a  height  of  mental  effort  and  worry  which  was  almost  above 
the  breathing  capacity  of  his  innocent  and  placid  nature. 
Many  a  night  he  rose,  lighted  a  candle,  and  tremulously 
fumbled  over  his  desk  until  morning,  in  the  vain  hope  of 
finding  the  missing  note. 

One  night,  while  he  was  so  searching,  some  one  touched 
him  softly  on  the  arm. 

He  jumped  and  turned.  It  was  Christine.  She  had 
stolen  in  silently. 

"  Oh,  it's  you !"  said  he. 

"  Ain't  you  found  it  ?" 

"  Found  it  ?  No ;  an'  I  sha'n't,  nuther."  He  turned  away 
from  her  and  pulled  out  another  drawer.  The  girl  stood 
watching  him  wistfully.  "  It  was  a  big  yellow  paper,"  the 
old  man  went  on — "  a  big  yellow  paper,  an'  I'd  wrote  on 
the  back  on't, '  Cyrus  Morris's  note.'  An'  the  interest  he'd 
paid  was  set  down  on  the  back  on't,  too." 

"  It's  too  bad  you  can't  find  it,"  said  she. 

"  It  ain't  no  use  lookin' ;  it  ain't  here,  an'  that's  the  hull 
on't.  It's  in  his  desk.  I  ain't  got  no  more  doubt  on't 
than  nothin'  at  all." 


"  Where — does  he  keep  his  desk  ?" 

"  In  his  kitchen ;  it's  jest  like  this  one." 

"Would  this  key  open  it?" 

"  I  dun  know  but  'twould.  But  it  ain't  no  use.  I  s'pose 
I'll  have  to  lose  it."  Caleb  sobbed  silently  and  wiped  his 

A  few  days  later  he  came,  all  breathless,  into  the  sitting- 
room.  He  could  hardly  speak ;  but  he  held  out  a  folded 
yellow  paper,  which  fluttered  and  blew  in  his  unsteady  hand 
like  a  yellow  maple-leaf  in  an  autumn  gale. 

"  Look-a-here  !"  he  gasped—"  look-a-here  !" 

"  Why,  for  goodness'  sake,  what's  the  matter  ?"  cried  Ma 
ria.  She  and  Mrs.  Childs  and  Paulina  were  there,  sewing 

"Jest  look-a-^r*/" 

"  Why,  for  mercy's  sake,  what  is  it,  father  ?  Are  you 
crazy  ?" 

"It's— the  noteT 

"  What  note  ?     Don't  get  so  excited,  father." 

"  Cyrus  Morris's  note.  That's  what  note  'tis.  Look-a- 
here  !" 

The  women  all  arose  and  pressed  around  him,  to  look  at  it. 

"  Where  did  you  find  it,  father  ?"  asked  his  wife,  who  was 
quite  pale. 

"  I  suppose  it  was  just  where  you  put  it,"  broke  in  Ma 
ria,  with  sarcastic  emphasis. 

"  No,  it  wa'n't.  No,  it  wa'n't,  nuther.  Don't  you  go 
to  crowin'  too  quick,  Maria.  That  paper  was  just  where 
I  told  you  'twas.  What  do  you  think  of  that,  hey  ?" 

"  Oh,  father,  you  didn't !" 

"It  was  layin'  right  there  in  his  desk.  That's  where 
'twas.  Jest  where  I  knew — " 


"  Father,  you  didn't  go  over  there  an'  take  it !" 

The  three  women  stared  at  him  with  dilated  eyes. 

"  No,  I  didn't." 

"Who  did?" 

The  old  man  jerked  his  head  towards  the  kitchen  door. 
"  She." 


"  Christiny." 

"  How  did  she  get  it  ?"  asked  Maria,  in  her  magisterial 
manner,  which  no  astonishment  could  agitate. 

"  She  saw  Cyrus  and  Mis'  Morris  ride  past,  an'  then 
she  run  over  there,  an'  she  got  in  through  the  window 
an'  got  it;  that's  how."  Caleb  braced  himself  like 
a  stubborn  child,  in  case  any  exception  were  taken  to  it 

"It  beats  everything  I  ever  heard,"  said  Mrs.  Childs, 

"  Next  time  you'll  believe  what  I  tell  you !"  said  Caleb. 

The  whole  family  were  in  a  state  of  delight  over  the  re 
covery  of  the  note;  still  Christine  got  rather  hesitating 
gratitude.  She  was  sharply  questioned,  and  rather  re 
proved  than  otherwise. 

This  theft,  which  could  hardly  be  called  a  theft,  aroused 
the  old  distrust  of  her. 

"  It  served  him  just  right,  and  it  wasn't  stealing,  because 
it  didn't  belong  to  him  ;  and  I  don't  know  what  you  would 
have  done  if  she  hadn't  taken  it,"  said  Maria ;  "  but,  for  all 
that,  it  went  all  over  me." 

"  So  it  did  over  me,"  said  her  sister.  "  I  felt  just  as  you 
did,  an'  I  felt  as  if  it  was  real  ungrateful  too,  when  the 
poor  child  did  it  just  for  us." 

But  there  were  no  such  misgivings  for  poor  Caleb,  with 


his  money,  and  his  triumph  over  iniquitous  Cyrus  Morris. 
He  was  wholly  and  unquestioningly  grateful. 

"  It  was  a  blessed  day  when  we  took  that  little  girl  in," 
he  told  his  wife. 

"  I  hope  it  '11  prove  so,"  said  she. 

Paulina  took  her  lover's  desertion  quietly.  She  had  just 
as  many  soft  smiles  for  every  one ;  there  was  no  alteration 
in  her  gentle,  obliging  ways.  Still  her  mother  used  to  listen 
at  her  door,  and  she  knew  that  she  cried  instead  of  sleep 
ing  many  a  night.  She  was  not  able  to  eat  much,  either, 
although  she  tried  to  with  pleasant  willingness  when  her 
mother  urged  her. 

After  a  while  she  was  plainly  grown  thin,  and  her  pretty 
color  had  faded.  Her  mother  could  not  keep  her  eyes 
from  her. 

"  Sometimes  I  think  I'll  go  an'  ask  Willard  myself  what 
this  kind  of  work  means,"  she  broke  out  with  an  abashed 
abruptness  one  afternoon.  She  and  Paulina  happened  to 
be  alone  in  the  sitting-room. 

"  You'll  kill  me  if  you  do,  mother,"  said  Paulina.  Then 
she  began  to  cry. 

"Well,  I  won't  do  anything  you  don't  want  me  to,  of 
course,"  said  her  mother.  She  pretended  not  to  see  that 
Paulina  was  crying. 

Willard  had  stopped  coming  about  the  first  of  Oc 
tober  ;  the  time  wore  on  until  it  was  the  first  of  December, 
and  he  had  not  once  been  to  the  house,  and  Paulina 
had  not  exchanged  a  word  with  him  in  the  mean 

One  night  she  had  a  fainting -spell.  She  fell  heavily 
while  crossing  the  sitting-room  floor.  They  got  her  on  to 
the  lounge,  and  she  soon  revived ;  but  her  mother  had  lost 


all  control  of  herself.  She  came  out  into  the  kitchen  and 
paced  the  floor. 

"Oh,  my  darlin'!"  she  wailed.  "She's  goin'  to  die. 
What  shall  I  do?  All  the  child  I've  got  in  the  world. 
An'  he's  killed  her !  That  scamp  !  I  wish  I  could  get  my 
hands  on  him.  Oh,  Paulina,  Paulina,  to  think  it  should 
come  to  this !" 

Christine  was  in  the  room,  and  she  listened  with  eyes 
dilated  and  lips  parted.  She  was  afraid  that  shrill  wail 
would  reach  Paulina  in  the  next  room. 

"  She'll  hear  you,"  she  said,  finally. 

Mrs.  Childs  grew  quieter  at  that,  and  presently  Maria 
called  her  into  the  sitting-room. 

Christine  stood  thinking  for  a  moment.  Then  she  got 
her  hood  and  shawl,  put  on  her  rubbers,  and  went  out. 
She  shut  the  door  softly,  so  nobody  should  hear.  When 
she  stepped  forth  she  plunged  knee-deep  into  snow.  It 
was  snowing  hard,  as  it  had  been  all  day.  It  was  a  cold 
storm,  too  \  the  wind  was  bitter.  Christine  waded  out  of 
the  yard  and  down  the  street.  She  was  so  small  and  light 
that  she  staggered  when  she  tried  to  step  firmly  in  some 
tracks  ahead  of  her.  There  was  a  full  moon  behind  the 
clouds,  and  there  was  a  soft  white  light  in  spite  of  the  storm. 
Christine  kept  on  down  the  street,  in  the  direction  of  Wil- 
lard  Morris's  house.  It  was  a  mile  distant.  Once  in  a 
while  she  stopped  and  turned  herself  about,  that  the  terri 
ble  wind  might  smite  her  back  instead  of  her  face.  When 
she  reached  the  house  she  waded  painfully  through  the 
yard  to  the  side-door  and  knocked.  Pretty  soon  it  opened, 
and  Willard  stood  there  in  the  entry,  with  a  lamp  in  his 

"  Good-evening,"  said  he,  doubtfully,  peering  out. 


"  Good-eveninV  The  light  shone  on  Christine's  face. 
The  snow  clung  to  her  soft  hair,  so  it  was  quite  white. 
Her  cheeks  had  a  deep,  soft  color,  like  roses ;  her  blue 
eyes  blinked  a  little  in  the  lamp-light,  but  seemed  rather  to 
flicker  like  jewels  or  stars.  She  panted  softly  through  her 
parted  lips.  She  stood  there,  with  the  snow-flakes  driving 
in  light  past  her,  and  "  She  looks  like  an  angel,"  came 
swiftly  into  Willard  Morris's  head  before  he  spoke. 

"  Oh,  it's  you,"  said  he. 

Christine  nodded. 

Then  they  stood  waiting.  "  Why,  won't  you  come  in  ?" 
said  Willard,  finally,  with  an  awkward  blush.  "  I  declare 
I  never  thought.  I  ain't  very  polite." 

She  shook  her  head.     "  No,  thank  you,"  said  she. 

"  Did — you  want  to  see  mother  ?" 

"  No." 

The  young  man  stared  at  her  in  increasing  perplexity. 
His  own  fair,  handsome  young  face  got  more  and  more 
flushed.  His  forehead  wrinkled.  "Was  there  anything 
you  wanted  ?" 

"  No,  I  guess  not,"  Christine  replied,  with  a  slow  soft 

Willard  shifted  the  lamp  into  his  other  hand  and  sighed. 
"  It's  a  pretty  hard  storm,"  he  remarked,  with  an  air  of 
forced  patience. 


"Didn't  you  find  it  terrible  hard  walking?" 

"  Some." 

Willard  was  silent  again.  "  See  here,  they're  all  well 
down  at  your  house,  ain't  they  ?"  said  he,  finally.  A  look 
of  anxious  interest  had  sprung  into  his  eyes.  He  had  be 
gun  to  take  alarm. 


"  I  guess  so." 

Suddenly  he  spoke  out  impetuously.  "  Say,  Christine, 
I  don't  know  what  you  came  here  for ;  you  can  tell  me  af 
terwards.  I  don't  know  what  you'll  think  of  me,  but — 
Well,  I  want  to  know  something.  Say — well,  I  haven't 
been  'round  for  quite  a  while.  You  don't  —  suppose  — 
they've  cared  much,  any  of  them  ?" 

"  I  don't  know." 

"Well,  I  don't  suppose  you  do,  but — you  might  have 
noticed.  Say,  Christine,  you  don't  think  she — you  know 
whom  I  mean — cared  anything  about  my  coming,  do  you?" 

"  I  don't  know,"  she  said  again,  softly,  with  her  eyes 
fixed  warily  on  his  face. 

"  Well,  I  guess  she  didn't ;  she  wouldn't  have  said  what 
she  did  if  she  had." 

Christine's  eyes  gave  a  sudden  gleam.  "What  did  she 

"  Said  she  wouldn't  have  anything  more  to  do  with  me," 
said  the  young  man,  bitterly.  "  She  was  afraid  I  would  be 
up  to  just  such  tricks  as  my  uncle  was,  trying  to  cheat  her 
father.  That  was  too  much  for  me.  I  wasn't  going  to 
stand  that  from  any  girl."  He  shook  his  head  angrily. 

"  She  didn't  say  it." 

"  Yes,  she  did  ;  her  own  father  told  my  uncle  so.  Mother 
was  in  the  next  room  and  heard  it." 

"  No,  she  didn't  say  it,"  the  girl  repeated. 

"  How  do  you  know  ?" 

"  I  heard  her  say  something  different."  Christine  told 

"  I'm  going  right  up  there,"  cried  he,  when  he  heard  that. 
"  Wait  a  minute,  and  I'll  go  along  with  you." 

"  I  dun  know  as  you'd  better — to-night,"  Christine  said, 


looking  out  towards  the  road,  evasively.  "  She — ain't  been 
very  well  to-night." 

"  Who  ?     Paulina  ?     What's  the  matter  ?" 

"She  had  a  faintin' -spell  jest  before  I  came  out,"  an 
swered  Christine,  with  stiff  gravity. 

"Oh!     Is  she  real  sick?" 

"  She  was  some  better." 

"  Don't  you  suppose  I  could  see  her  just  a  few  minutes  ? 
I  wouldn't  stay  to  tire  her,"  said  the  young  man,  eagerly. 

"I  dun  know." 

"  I  must,  anyhow." 

Christine  fixed  her  eyes  on  his  with  a  solemn  sharpness. 
"  What  makes  you  want  to  ?" 

"  What  makes  me  want  to  ?  Why,  I'd  give  ten  years  to 
see  her  five  minutes." 

"  Well,  mebbe  you  could  come  over  a  few  minutes." 

"  Wait  a  minute,"  cried  Willard.     "  I'll  get  my  hat" 

"  I'd  better  go  first,  I  guess.  The  parlor  fire  '11  be  to 

"Then  had  I  better  wait?" 

"  I  guess  so." 

"  Then  I'll  be  along  in  about  an  hour.  Say,  you  haven't 
said  what  you  wanted." 

Christine  was  off  the  step.  "  It  ain't  any  matter,"  mur 
mured  she. 

"  Say— she  didn't  send  you?" 

"  No,  she  didn't." 

"I  didn't  mean  that.  I  didn't  suppose  she  did,"  said 
Willard,  with  an  abashed  air.  "  What  did  you  want,  Chris 

"There's  somethin'  I  want  you  to  promise,"  said  she, 


"What's  that?" 

"  Don't  you  say  anything  about  Mr.  Childs." 

"  Why,  how  can  I  help  it  ?" 

"  He's  an  old  man,  an'  he  was  so  worked  up  he  didn't 
know  what  he  was  sayin'.  They'll  all  scold  him.  Don't 
say  anything." 

"  Well,  I  won't  say  anything.  I  don't  know  what  I'm 
going  to  tell  her,  though." 

Christine  turned  to  go. 

"  You  didn't  say  what  'twas  you  wanted,"  called  Willard 

But  she  made  no  reply.  She  was  pushing  through  the 
deep  snow  out  of  the  yard. 

It  was  quite  early  yet,  only  a  few  minutes  after  seven. 
It  was  eight  when  she  reached  home.  She  entered  the 
house  without  any  one  seeing  her.  She  pulled  off  her 
snowy  things,  and  went  into  the  sitting-room. 

Paulina  was  alone  there.  She  was  lying  on  the  lounge. 
She  was  very  pale,  but  she  looked  up  and  smiled  when 
Christine  entered. 

Christine  brought  the  fresh  out-door  air  with  her.  Pau 
lina  noticed  it.  "  Where  have  you  been  ?"  whispered  she. 

Then  Christine  bent  over  her,  and  talked  fast  in  a  low 

Presently  Paulina  raised  herself  and  sat  up.  "  To-night  ?" 
cried  she,  in  an  eager  whisper.  Her  cheeks  grew  red. 

"Yes;  I'll  go  make  the  parlor  fire." 

"  It's  all  ready  to  light."  Suddenly  Paulina  threw  her 
arms  around  Christine  and  kissed  her.  Both  girls  blushed. 

"  I  don't  think  I  said  one  thing  to  him  that  you  wouldn't 
have  wanted  me  to,"  said  Christine. 

"  You  didn't — ask  him  to  come  ?" 


"  No,  I  didn't,  honest." 

When  Mrs.  Childs  entered,  a  few  minutes  later,  she  found 
her  daughter  standing  before  the  glass. 

"  Why,  Paulina  !"  cried  she. 

"  I  feel  a  good  deal  better,  mother,"  said  Paulina. 

"  Ain't  you  goin'  to  bed  ?" 

"  I  guess  I  won't  quite  yet." 

"I've  got  it  all  ready  for  you.  I  thought  you  wouldn't 
feel  like  sittin'  up." 

"  I  guess  I  will ;  a  little  while." 

Soon  the  door-bell  rang  with  a  sharp  peal.  Everybody 
jumped — Paulina  rose  and  went  to  the  door. 

Mrs.  Childs  and  Maria,  listening,  heard  Willard's  familiar 
voice,  then  the  opening  of  the  parlor  door. 

"  It's  him  r  gasped  Mrs.  Childs.  She  and  Maria  looked 
at  each  other. 

It  was  about  two  hours  before  the  soft  murmur  of  voices 
in  the  parlor  ceased,  the  outer  door  closed  with  a  thud,  and 
Paulina  came  into  the  room.  She  was  blushing  and  smil 
ing,  but  she  could  not  look  in  any  one's  face  at  first. 

"  Well,"  said  her  mother,  "who  was  it?" 

"Willard.     It's  all  right." 

It  was  not  long  before  the  fine  sewing  was  brought  out 
again,  and  presently  two  silk  dresses  were  bought  for  Pauli 
na.  It  was  known  about  that  she  was  to  be  married  on 
Christmas  Day.  Christine  assisted  in  the  preparation.  All 
the  family  called  to  mind  afterwards  the  obedience  so  ready 
as  to  be  loving  which  she  yielded  to  their  biddings  during 
those  few  hurried  weeks.  She  sewed,  she  made  cake,  she 
ran  of  errands,  she  wearied  herself  joyfully  for  the  happiness 
of  this  other  young  girl. 

About  a  week  before  the  wedding,  Christine,  saying  good- 


night  when  about  to  retire  one  evening,  behaved  strangely. 
They  remembered  it  afterwards.  She  went  up  to  Paulina 
and  kissed  her  when  saying  good-night.  It  was  something 
which  she  had  never  before  done.  Then  she  stood  in  the 
door,  looking  at  them  all.  There  was  a  sad,  almost  a  sol 
emn,  expression  on  her  fair  girlish  face. 

"  Why,  what's  the  matter  ?"  said  Maria. 

"  NothinV  said  Christine.     "  Good-night." 

That  was  the  last  time  they  ever  saw  her.  The  next 
morning  Mrs.  Childs,  going  to  call  her,  found  her  room  va 
cant.  There  was  a  great  alarm.  When  they  did  not  find 
her  in  the  house  nor  the  neighborhood,  people  were  aroused, 
and  there  was  a  search  instigated.  It  was  prosecuted 
eagerly,  but  to  no  purpose.  Paulina's  wedding  evening 
came,  and  Christine  was  still  missing. 

Paulina  had  been  married,  and  was  standing  beside  her 
husband,  in  the  midst  of  the  chattering  guests,  when  Caleb 
stole  out  of  the  room.  He  opened  the  north  door,  and 
stood  looking  out  over  the  dusky  fields.  "Christiny!"  he 
called,  "Christiny!" 

Presently  he  looked  up  at  the  deep  sky,  full  of  stars,  and 
called  again — "  Christiny !  Christiny !"  But  there  was  no 
answer  save  in  light.  When  Christine  stood  in  the  sitting- 
room  door  and  said  good-night,  her  friends  had  their  last 
sight  and  sound  of  her.  Their  Twelfth  Guest  had  departed 
from  their  hospitality  forever. 


THERE  were  no  trees  near  the  almshouse ;  it  stood  in  its 
bare,  sandy  lot,  and  there  were  no  leaves  or  branches  to 
cast  shadows  on  its  walls.  It  seemed  like  the  folks  whom 
it  sheltered,  out  in  the  full  glare  of  day,  without  any  little 
kindly  shade  between  itself  and  the  dull,  unfeeling  stare  of 
curiosity.  The  almshouse  stood  upon  rising  ground,  so 
one  could  see  it  for  a  long  distance.  It  was  a  new  build 
ing,  Mansard-roofed  and  well  painted.  The  village  took 
pride  in  it :  no  town  far  or  near  had  such  a  house  for  the 
poor.  It  was  so  fine  and  costly  that  the  village  did  not  feel 
able  to  give  its  insane  paupers  separate  support  in  a  regu 
lar  asylum  •  so  they  lived  in  the  almshouse  with  the  sane 
paupers,  and  there  was  a  padded  cell  in  case  they  waxed 
too  violent. 

Around  the  almshouse  lay  the  town  fields.  In  summer 
they  were  green  with  corn  and  potatoes,  now  they  showed 
ugly  plough  ridges  sloping  over  the  uneven  ground,  and 
yellow  corn  stubble.  Beyond  the  field  at  the  west  of  the 
almshouse  was  a  little  wood  of  elms  and  oaks  and  wild 
apple-trees.  The  yellow  leaves  had  all  fallen  from  the 
elms  and  the  apple-trees,  but  most  of  the  brown  ones  stayed 
on  the  oaks. 

Polly  Moss  stood  at  the  west  window  in  the  women's 


sitting-room  and  gazed  over  at  the  trees.  "  It's  cur'us  how 
them  oak  leaves  hang  on  arter  the  others  have  all  fell  off," 
she  remarked. 

A  tall  old  woman  sitting  beside  the  stove  looked  around 
suddenly.  She  had  singular  bright  eyes,  and  a  sardonic 
smile  around  her  mouth.  "It's  a  way  they  allers  have," 
she  returned,  scornfully.  "  Guess  there  ain't  nothin'  very 
cur'us  about  it.  When  the  oak  leaves  fall  off  an'  the  others 
hang  on,  then  you  can  be  lookin'  for  the  end  of  the  world ; 
that's  goin'  to  be  one  of  the  signs." 

"  Allers  a-harpin'  on  the  end  of  the  world,"  growled  an 
other  old  woman,  in  a  deep  bass  voice.  "  I've  got  jest 
about  sick  on't.  Seems  as  if  I  should  go  crazy  myself, 
hearin'  on't  the  whole  time."  She  was  sewing  a  seam  in 
coarse  cloth,  and  she  sat  on  a  stool  on  the  other  side  of 
the  stove.  She  was  short  and  stout,  and  she  sat  with  a 
heavy  settle  as  if  she  were  stuffed  with  lead. 

The  tall  old  woman  took  no  further  notice.  She  sat 
rigidly  straight,  and  fixed  her  bright  eyes  upon  the  top  of 
the  door,  and  her  sardonic  smile  deepened. 

The  stout  old  woman  gave  an  ugly  look  at  her ;  then  she 
sewed  with  more  impetus.  Now  and  then  she  muttered 
something  in  her  deep  voice. 

There  were,  besides  herself,  three  old  women  in  the  room 
— Polly  Moss,  the  tali  one,  and  a  pretty  one  in  a  white  cap 
and  black  dress.  There  was  also  a  young  woman  ;  she  sat 
in  a  rocking-chair  and  leaned  her  head  back.  She  was 
handsome,  but  she  kept  her  mouth  parted  miserably,  and 
there  were  ghastly  white  streaks  around  it  and  her  nostrils. 
She  never  spoke.  Her  pretty  black  hair  was  rough,  and 
her  dress  sagged  at  the  neck.  She  had  been  living  out  at 
a  large  farm,  and  had  overworked.  She  had  no  friends  or 


relatives  to  take  her  in ;  so  she  had  come  to  the  almshouse 
to  rest  and  try  to  recover.  She  had  no  refuge  but  the  alms- 
house  or  the  hospital,  and  she  had  a  terrible  horror  of  a 
hospital.  Dreadful  visions  arose  in  her  ignorant  childish 
mind  whenever  she  thought  of  one.  She  had  a  lover,  but 
he  had  not  been  to  see  her  since  she  came  to  the  alms- 
house,  six  weeks  before ;  she  wept  most  of  the  time  over 
that  and  her  physical  misery. 

Polly  Moss  stood  at  the  window  until  a  little  boy  trudged 
into  the  room,  bringing  his  small  feet  down  with  a  clapping 
noise.  He  went  up  to  Polly  and  twitched  her  dress.  She 
looked  around  at  him.  "  Well,  now,  Tommy,  what  do  ye 
want  ?" 

"  Come  out-doors  an'  play  hide  an'  coot  wis  me,  Polly." 

Tommy  was  a  stout  little  boy.  He  wore  a  calico  tier 
that  sagged  to  his  heels  in  the  back,  and  showed  in  front 
his  little  calico  trousers.  His  round  face  was  pleasant  and 
innocent  and  charming. 

Polly  put  her  arms  around  the  boy  and  hugged  him. 
"  Tommy's  a  darlin',"  she  said ;  l<  can't  he  give  poor  Polly 
a  kiss  ?" 

Tommy  put  up  his  lips.  "  Come  out-doors  an*  play  hide 
an'  coot  wis  me,"  he  said  again,  breathing  the  words  out 
with  the  kiss. 

"  Now,  Tommy,  jest  look  out  of  the  winder.  Don't  he 
see  that  it's  rainin',  hey  ?" 

The  child  shook  his  head  stubbornly,  although  he  was 
looking  straight  at  the  window,  which  revealed  plainly 
enough  that  long  sheets  of  rain  were  driving  over  the  fields. 
"  Come  out-doors  and  play  hide  an'  coot  wis  me,  Polly." 

"  Now,  Tommy,  jest  listen  to  Polly.  Don't  he  know  he 
can't  go  out-doors  when  it's  rainin'  this  way  ?  He'd  get  all 


wet,  an*  Polly  too.  But  I'll  tell  you  what  Polly  an'  Tom 
my  can  do.  We'll  jest  go  out  in  the  hall  an'  we'll  roll  the 
ball.  Tommy  go  run  quick  an'  get  his  ball." 

Tommy  raised  a  shout,  and  clapped  out  of  the  room  ; 
his  sweet  nature  was  easily  diverted.  Polly  followed  him. 
She  had  a  twisting  limp,  and  was  so  bent  that  she  was  not 
much  taller  than  Tommy,  her  little  pale  triangular  face 
seemed  to  look  from  the  middle  of  her  flat  chest. 

"The  wust-lookin'  objeck,"  growled  the  stout  old  woman 
when  Polly  was  out  of  the  room :  "  looks  more  like  an  old 
cat  that's  had  to  airn  it's  own  livin'  than  a  human  bein'. 
It  'bout  makes  me  sick  to  look  at  her."  Her  deep  tones 
travelled  far ;  Polly,  out  in  the  corridor  waiting  for  Tommy, 
heard  every  word. 

"  She  is  a  dretful-lookin'  cretur,"  assented  the  pretty  old 
woman.  As  she  spoke  she  puckered  her  little  red  mouth 
daintily,  and  drew  herself  up  with  a  genteel  air. 

The  stout  old  woman  surveyed  her  contemptuously. 
"  Well,  good  looks  don't  amount  to  much,  nohow,"  said 
she,  "  if  folks  ain't  got  common-sense  to  balance  'em.  I'd 
enough  sight  ruther  know  a  leetle  somethin'  than  have  a 
dolly-face  myself." 

"  Seems  to  me  she  is  about  the  dretfulest-lookin'  cretur 
that  I  ever  did  see,"  repeated  the  pretty  old  woman,  quite 
unmoved.  Aspersions  on  her  intellect  never  aroused  her 
in  the  least. 

The  stout  old  woman  looked  baffled.  "Jest  turn  your 
head  a  leetle  that  way,  will  you,  Mis'  Handy?"  she  said, 

The  pretty  old  woman  turned  her  head  obediently. 
"  What  is  it  ?"  she  inquired,  with  a  conscious  simper. 

"Jest  turn  your  head  a  leetle  more.     Yes,  it's  funny  I 


ain't  never  noticed  it  afore.  Your  nose  is  a  leetle  grain 
crooked — ain't  it,  Mis'  Handy  ?" 

Mrs.  Handy's  face  turned  a  deep  pink — even  her  little 
ears  and  her  delicate  old  neck  were  suffused;  her  blue 
eyes  looked  like  an  enraged  bird's.  "  Crooked  !  H'm  !  I 
shouldn't  think  that  folks  that's  got  a  nose  like  some  folks 
had  better  say  much  about  other  folks'  noses.  There  can't 
nobody  tell  me  nothin'  about  my  nose ;  I  know  all  about 
it.  Folks  that  wouldn't  wipe  their  feet  on  some  folks,  nor 
look  twice  at  'em,  has  praised  it.  My  nose  ain't  crooked 
an'  never  was,  an'  if  anybody  says  so  it's  'cause  they're  so 
spity,  'cause  they're  so  mortal  homely  themselves.  Guess 
I  know."  She  drew  breath,  and  paused  for  a  return  shot, 
but  she  got  none.  The  stout  old  woman  sewed  and  chuckled 
to  herself,  the  tall  one  still  fixed  her  eyes  upon  the  top  of 
the  door,  and  the  young  woman  leaned  back  with  her  lips 
parted,  and  her  black  eyes  rolled. 

The  pretty  old  woman  began  again  in  defence  of  her 
nose ;  she  talked  fiercely,  and  kept  feeling  of  it.  Finally 
she  arose  and  went  out  of  the  room  with  a  flirt. 

Then  the  stout  old  woman  laughed.  "She's  gone  to 
look  at  her  nose  in  the  lookin'-glass,  an'  make  sure  it  ain't 
crooked :  if  it  ain't  a  good  joke !"  she  exclaimed,  delight 

But  she  got  no  response.  The  young  woman  never 
stirred,  and  the  tall  old  one  only  lowered  her  gaze  from 
the  door  to  the  stove,  which  she  regarded  disapprovingly. 
"  I  call  it  the  devil's  stove,"  she  remarked,  after  a  while. 

The  stout  old  woman  gave  a  grunt  and  sewed  her  seam  ; 
she  was  done  with  talking  to  such  an  audience.  The  shouts 
of  children  out  in  the  corridor  could  be  heard.  "Pesky 
young  ones !"  she  muttered. 


In  the  corridor  Polly  Moss  played  ball  with  the  children. 
She  never  caught  the  ball,  and  she  threw  it  with  weak, 
aimless  jerks;  her  back  ached,  but  she  was  patient,  and 
her  face  was  full  of  simple  childish  smiles.  There  were 
two  children  besides  Tommy — his  sister  and  a  little  boy. 

The  corridor  was  long ;  doors  in  both  sides  led  into  the 
paupers'  bedrooms.  Suddenly  one  of  the  doors  flew  open, 
and  a  little  figure  shot  out.  She  went  down  the  corridor 
with  a  swift  trot  like  a  child.  She  had  on  nothing  but  a 
woollen  petticoat  and  a  calico  waist;  she  held  her  head 
down,  and  her  narrow  shoulders  worked  as  she  ran ;  her 
mop  of  soft  white  hair  flew  out.  The  children  looked 
around  at  her ;  she  was  a  horrible  caricature  of  themselves. 

The  stout  old  woman  came  pressing  out  of  the  sitting- 
room.  She  went  directly  to  the  room  that  the  running 
figure  had  left,  and  peered  in ;  then  she  looked  around  sig 
nificantly.  "  I  knowed  it,"  she  said  ;  "  it's  tore  all  to  pieces 
agin.  I'd  jest  been  thinkin'  to  myself  that  Sally  was  dret- 
ful  still,  an'  I'd  bet  she  was  pullin'  her  bed  to  pieces. 
There  'tis,  an'  made  up  jest  as  nice  a  few  minutes  ago ! 
I'm  goin'  to  see  Mis'  Arms." 

Mrs.  Arms  was  the  matron.  The  old  woman  went  off 
with  an  important  air,  and  presently  she  returned  with  her. 
The  matron  was  a  large  woman  with  a  calm,  benignant,  and 
weary  face. 

Polly  Moss  continued  to  play  ball,  but  several  other  old 
women  had  assembled,  and  they  all  talked  volubly.  They 
demonstrated  that  Sally  had  torn  her  bed  to  pieces,  that  it 
had  been  very  nicely  made,  and  that  she  should  be  pun 

The  matron  listened  ;  she  did  not  say  much.  Then  she 
returned  to  the  kitchen,  where  she  was  preparing  dinner- 


Some  of  the  paupers  assisted  her.  An  old  man,  with  his 
baggy  trousers  hitched  high,  chopped  something  in  a  tray, 
an  old  woman  peeled  potatoes,  and  a  young  one  washed 
pans  at  the  sink.  The  young  woman,  as  she  washed,  kept 
looking  over  her  shoulder  and  rolling  her  dark  eyes  at  the 
other  people  in  the  room.  She  was  mindful  of  every  mo 
tion  behind  her  back. 

Mrs.  Arms  herself  worked  and  directed  the  others.  When 
dinner  was  ready  the  old  man  clanged  a  bell  in  the  corridor, 
and  everybody  flocked  to  the  dining-room  except  the  young 
woman  at  the  kitchen  sink ;  she  still  stood  there  washing 
dishes.  The  dinner  was  coarse  and  abundant.  The  pau 
pers,  with  the  exception  of  the  sick  young  woman,  ate  with 
gusto.  The  children  were  all  hearty,  and  although  the 
world  had  lost  all  its  savor  for  the  hearts  and  minds  of  the 
old  ones,  it  was  still  somewhat  salt  to  their  palates.  Now 
that  their  thoughts  had  ceased  reaching  and  grasping,  they 
could  still  put  out  their  tongues,  for  that  primitive  instinct 
of  life  with  which  they  had  been  born  still  survived  and 
gave  them  pleasure.  In  this  world  it  is  the  child  only  that 
is  immortal. 

The  old  people  and  the  children  ate  after  the  same  man 
ner.  There  was  a  loud  smacking  of  lips  and  gurgling 
noises.  The  rain  drove  against  the  windows  of  the  dining- 
room,  with  its  bare  floor,  its  board  tables  and  benches,  and 
rows  of  feeding  paupers.  The  smooth  yellow  heads  of  the 
children  seemed  to  catch  all  the  light  in  the  room.  Once 
in  a  while  they  raised  imperious  clamors.  The  overseer 
sat  at  one  end  of  the  table  and  served  the  beef.  He  was 
stout,  and  had  a  handsome,  heavy  face. 

The  meal  was  nearly  finished  when  there  was  a  crash  of 
breaking  crockery,  a  door  slammed,  and  there  was  a  wild 


shriek  out  in  the  corridor.  The  overseer  and  one  of  the  old 
men  who  was  quite  able-bodied  sprang  and  rushed  out  of 
the  room.  The  matron  followed,  and  the  children  tagged 
at  her  heels.  The  others  continued  feeding  as  if  nothing 
had  happened.  "  That  Agnes  is  wuss  agin,"  remarked  the 
stout  old  woman.  "  I've  seed  it  a-comin'  on  fer  a  couple 
of  days.  They'd  orter  have  put  her  in  the  cell  yesterday ; 
I  told  Mis'  Arms  so,  but  they're  allers  puttin'  off,  an'  put- 
tin'  off." 

"  They  air  a-takin'  on  her  up  to  the  cell  now,"  said  the 
pretty  old  woman  ;  and  she  brought  around  her  knifeful  of 
cabbage  with  a  sidewise  motion,  and  stretched  her  little 
red  mouth  to  receive  it. 

Out  in  the  corridor  shriek  followed  shriek ;  there  were 
loud  voices  and  scuffling.  The  children  were  huddled  in 
the  doorway,  peeping,  but  the  old  paupers  continued  to  eat. 
The  sick  young  woman  laid  down  her  knife  and  fork  and 

Presently  the  shrieks  and  the  scuffling  grew  faint  in  the 
distance;  the  children  had  followed  on.  Then,  after  a 
little,  they  all  returned  and  the  dinner  was  finished. 

After  dinner,  when  the  women  paupers  had  done  their 
share  of  the  clearing  away,  they  were  again  assembled  in 
their  sitting-room.  The  windows  were  cloudy  with  fine 
mist ;  the  rain  continued  to  drive  past  them  from  over  the 
yellow  stubbly  fields.  There  was  a  good  fire  in  the  stove, 
and  the  room  was  hot  and  close.  The  stout  old  woman 
sewed  again  on  her  coarse  seam,  the  others  were  idle. 
There  were  now  six  old  women  present ;  one  of  them  was 
the  little  creature  whom  they  called  Sally.  She  sat  close 
to  the  stove,  bent  over  and  motionless.  Her  clothing  hardly 
covered  her.  The  sick  young  woman  w*s  absent ;  she  was 


lying  down  on  the  lounge  in  the  matron's  room,  and  the 
children  too  were  in  there. 

Polly  Moss  sat  by  the  window.  The  old  women  began 
talking  among  themselves.  The  pretty  old  one  had  taken 
off  her  cap  and  had  it  in  her  lap,  perking  up  the  lace  and 
straightening  it.  It  was  a  flimsy  rag,  like  a  soiled  cobweb. 
The  stout  old  woman  cast  a  contemptuous  glance  at  it. 
She  raised  her  nose  and  her  upper  lip  scornfully.  "  I  don't 
see  how  you  can  wear  that  nasty  thing  nohow,  Mis'  Handy," 
said  she. 

Mrs.  Handy  flushed  pink  again.  She  bridled  and  began 
to  speak,  then  she  looked  at  the  little  soft  soiled  mass  in 
her  lap,  and  paused.  She  had  not  the  force  of  character 
to  proclaim  black  white  while  she  was  looking  at  it.  Had 
the  old  cap  been  in  the  bureau  drawer,  or  even  on  her  head, 
she  might  have  defended  it  to  the  death,  but  here  before 
her  eyes  it  silenced  her. 

But  after  her  momentary  subsidence  she  aroused  herself; 
her  blue  eyes  gleamed  dimly  at  the  stout  old  woman.  "  It 
was  a  handsome  cap  when  it  was  new,  anyhow !"  said  she ; 
"better'n  some  folks  ever  had,  I'll  warrant.  Folks  that 
ain't  got  no  caps  at  all  can't  afford  to  be  flingin'  at  them 
that  has,  if  they  ain't  quite  so  nice  as  they  was.  You'd 
orter  have  seen  the  cap  I  had  when  my  daughter  was  mar 
ried  !  All  white  wrought  lace,  an'  bows  of  pink  ribbon,  an' 
long  streamers,  an'  some  artificial  roses  on't.  I  don't  s'pose 
you  ever  see  anythin'  like  it,  Mis'  Paine." 

The  stout  woman  was  Mrs.  Paine.  "Mebbe  I  ain't," 
said  she,  sarcastically. 

The  tall  old  woman  chimed  in  suddenly ;  her  thin,  ner 
vous  voice  clanged  after  the  others  like  a  sharply  struck 
bell.  f<  I  ain't  never  had  any  caps  to  speak  of,"  she  pro- 


claimed ;  "  never  thought  much  of  'em,  anyhow ;  heatin' 
things ;  an'  I  never  heard  that  folks  in  heaven  wore  caps. 
But  I  have  had  some  good  clothes.  I've  got  a  piece  of 
silk  in  my  bureau  drawer.  That  silk  would  stand  alone. 
An'  I  had  a  good  thibet ;  there  was  rows  an'  rows  of  velvet 
ribbon  on  it.  I  always  had  good  clothes ;  my  husband,  he 
wanted  I  should,  an'  he  got  'em  fer  me.  I  aimed  some 
myself,  too.  I  'ain't  got  any  now,  an'  I  dunno  as  I  care  if 
I  ain't,  fer  the  signs  are  increasin'." 

"  Allers  a-harpin'  on  that,"  muttered  the  stout  old  woman. 

"  I  had  a  handsome  blue  silk  when  I  was  marri'd," 
vouchsafed  Mrs.  Handy. 

"  I've  seen  the  piece  of  it,"  returned  the  tall  one ;  "  it 
ain't  near  so  thick  as  mine  is." 

The  old  woman  who  had  not  been  present  in  the  morn 
ing  now  spoke.  She  had  been  listening  with  a  superior  air. 
She  was  the  only  one  in  the  company  who  had  possessed 
considerable  property,  and  had  fallen  from  a  widely  differ 
ing  estate.  She  was  tall  and  dark  and  gaunt ;  she  towered 
up  next  the  pretty  old  woman  like  a  scraggy  old  pine  be 
side  a  faded  lily.  She  was  a  single  woman,  and  she  had 
lost  all  her  property  through  an  injudicious  male  relative. 
"  Well,"  she  proclaimed,  "everybody  knows  I've  had  things 
if  I  ain't  got  'em  now.  There  I  had  a  whole  house,  with 
Brussels  carpets  on  all  the  rooms  except  the  kitchen,  an* 
stuffed  furniture,  an'  beddin'  packed  away  in  chists,  an' 
bureau  drawers  full  of  things.  An'  I  ruther  think  I've  had 
silk  dresses  an'  bunnits  an'  caps." 

"  I  remember  you  had  a  real  handsome  blue  bunnit  once, 
but  it  warn't  so  becomin'  as  some  you'd  had,  you  was  so 
dark-complected,"  remarked  the  pretty  old  woman,  in  a 
soft,  spiteful  voice.  "I  had  a  white  one,  drawn  silk,  an? 


white  feathers  on't,  when  I  was  married,  and  they  all  said  it 
was  real  becomin'.  I  was  allers  real  white  myself.  I  had 
a  white  muslin  dress  with  a  flounce  on  it,  once,  too,  an'  a 
black  silk  spencer  cape." 

"  I  had  a  fitch  tippet  an'  muff  that  cost  twenty-five  dol 
lars,"  remarked  the  stout  old  woman,  emphatically,  "  an*  a 
cashmire  shawl." 

"  I  had  two  cashmire  shawls,  an'  my  tippet  cost  fifty  dol 
lars,"  retorted  the  dark  old  woman,  with  dignity. 

"  My  fust  baby  had  an  elegant  blue  cashmire  cloak,  all 
worked  with  silk  as  deep  as  that,"  said  Mrs.  Handy.  She 
now  had  the  old  cap  on  her  head,  and  looked  more  as 

"  Mine  had  a  little  wagon  with  a  velvet  cushion  to  ride 
in;  an'  I  had  a  tea-set,  real  chiny,  with  a  green  sprig  on't," 
said  the  stout  old  woman. 

"  I  had  a  Brittany  teapot,"  returned  Mrs.  Handy. 

"  I  had  gilt  vases  as  tall  as  that  on  my  parlor  mantel 
shelf,"  said  the  dark  old  woman. 

"  I  had  a  chiny  figger,  a  girl  with  a  basket  of  flowers  on 
her  arm,  once,"  rejoined  the  tall  one ;  "  it  used  to  set  side 
of  the  clock.  An'  when  I  was  fust  married  I  used  to  live 
in  a  white  house,  with  a  flower-garden  to  one  side.  I  can 
smell  them  pinks  an'  roses  now,  an'  I  s'pose  I  allers  shall, 
jest  as  far  as  I  go." 

"I  had  a  pump  in  my  kitchen  sink,  an'  things  real 
handy,"  said  the  stout  old  one ;  "  an'  I  used  to  look  as 
well  as  anybody,  an'  my  husband  too,  when  we  went  to 
meetin'.  I  remember  one  winter  I  had  a  new  brown  alpaca 
with  velvet  buttons,  an'  he  had  a  new  great-coat  with  a 
velvet  collar." 

Suddenly  the  little  cowering  Sally  raised  herself  and  gave 


testimony  to  her  own  little  crumb  of  past  comfort.  Her 
wits  were  few  and  scattering,  and  had  been  all  her  days, 
but  the  conversation  of  the  other  women  seemed  to  set 
some  vibrating  into  momentary  concord.  She  laughed,  and 
her  bleared  blue  eyes  twinkled.  "I  had  a  pink  caliker 
gownd  once,"  she  quavered  out.  "  Mis'  Thompson,  she  gin 
it  me  when  I  lived  there." 

"  Do  hear  the  poor  cretur,"  said  the  pretty  old  woman, 
with  an  indulgent  air. 

Now  everybody  had  spoken  but  Polly  Moss.  She  sat 
by  the  misty  window,  and  her  little  pale  triangular  face 
looked  from  her  sunken  chest  at  the  others.  This  conver 
sation  was  a  usual  one.  Many  and  many  an  afternoon  the 
almshouse  old  women  sat  together  and  bore  witness  to  their 
past  glories.  Now  they  had  nothing,  but  at  one  time  or 
another  they  had  had  something  over  which  to  plume  them 
selves  and  feel  that  precious  pride  of  possession.  Their 
present  was  to  them  a  state  of  simple  existence,  they 
regarded  their  future  with  a  vague  resignation  ;  they  were 
none  of  them  thinkers,  and  there  was  no  case  of  rapturous 
piety  among  them.  In  their  pasts  alone  they  took  real 
comfort,  and  they  kept,  as  it  were,  feeling  of  them  to  see 
if  they  were  not  still  warm  with  life. 

The  old  women  delighted  in  these  inventories  and  conv 
paring  of  notes.  Polly  Moss  alone  had  never  spoken.  She 
alone  had  never  had  anything  in  which  to  take  pride.  She 
had  been  always  deformed  and  poor  and  friendless.  She 
had  worked  for  scanty  pay  as  long  as  she  was  able,  and  had 
then  drifted  and  struck  on  the  almshouse,  where  she  had 
grown  old.  She  had  not  even  a  right  to  the  charity  of  this 
particular  village :  this  was  merely  the  place  where  her 
working  powers  had  failed  her;  but  no  one  could  trace 


her  back  to  her  birthplace,  or  the  town  which  was  respon 
sible  for  her  support.  Polly  Moss  herself  did  not  know — 
she  went  humbly  where  she  was  told.  All  her  life  the  world 
had  seemed  to  her  simply  standing-ground ;  she  had  gotten 
little  more  out  of  it. 

Every  day,  when  the  others  talked,  she  listened  admiring 
ly,  and  searched  her  memory  for  some  little  past  treasure  of 
her  own,  but  she  could  not  remember  any.  The  dim  image 
of  a  certain  delaine  dress,  with  bright  flowers  scattered  over 
it,  which  she  had  once  owned,  away  back  in  her  girlhood, 
sometimes  floated  before  her  eyes  when  they  were  talking, 
and  she  had  a  half- mind  to  mention  that,  but  her  heart 
would  fail  her.  She  feared  that  it  was  not  worthy  to  be  com 
pared  with  the  others'  fine  departed  gowns ;  it  paled  before 
even  Sally's  pink  calico.  Polly's  poor  clothes,  covering  her 
pitiful  crookedness,  had  never  given  her  any  firm  stimulus 
to  gratulation.  So  she  was  always  silent,  and  the  other  old 
women  had  come  to  talk  at  her.  Their  conversation  ac 
quired  a  gusto  from  this  listener  who  could  not  join  in. 
When  a  new  item  of  past  property  was  given,  there  was 
always  a  side-glance  in  Polly's  direction. 

None  of  the  old  women  expected  to  ever  hear  a  word  from 
Polly,  but  this  afternoon,  when  they  had  all,  down  to  Sally, 
testified,  she  spoke  up  : 

"  You'd  orter  have  seen  my  sister  Liddy,"  said  she ;  her 
voice  was  very  small,  it  sounded  like  the  piping  of  a  feeble 
bird  in  a  bush. 

There  was  a  dead  silence.  The  other  old  women  looked 
at  each  other.  "  Didn't  know  you  ever  had  a  sister  Liddy," 
the  stout  old  woman  blurted  out,  finally,  with  an  amazed  air. 

"  My  sister  Liddy  was  jest  as  handsome  as  a  pictur'," 
Polly  returned. 


The  pretty  old  woman  flushed  jealously.    "  Was  she  fair 
complected  ?"  she  inquired. 

"She  was  jest  as  fair  as  a  lily — a  good  deal  fairer  than 
you  ever  was,  Mis'  Handy,  an'  she  had  long  yaller  curls 
a-hangin'  clean  down  to  her  waist,  an'  her  cheeks  were  jest 
as  pink,  an'  she  had  the  biggest  blue  eyes  I  ever  see,  an' 
the  beautifulest  leetle  red  mouth." 

"  Lor' !"  ejaculated  the  stout  old  woman,  and  the  pretty 
old  woman  sniffed. 

But  Polly  went  on ;  she  was  not  to  be  daunted  ;  she  had 
been  silent  all  this  time  ;  and  now  her  category  poured  forth, 
not  piecemeal,  but  in  a  flood,  upon  her  astonished  hearers. 

"  Liddy,  she  could  sing  the  best  of  anybody  anywheres 
around,"  she  continued ;  "  nobody  ever  heerd  sech  singin'. 
It  was  so  dretful  loud  an'  sweet  that  you  could  hear  it  'way 
down  the  road  when  the  winders  was  shut.  She  used  to 
sing  in  the  meetin'-house,  she  did,  an'  all  the  folks  used  to 
sit  up  an'  look  at  her  when  she  begun.  She  used  to  wear  a 
black  silk  dress  to  meetin',  an'  a  white  cashmire  shawl,  an'  a 
bunnit  with  a  pink  wreath  around  the  face,  an'  she  had  white 
kid  gloves.  Folks  used  to  go  to  that  meetin'-house  jest  to 
hear  Liddy  sing  an'  see  her.  They  thought  'nough  sight 
more  of  that  than  they  did  of  the  preachin'. 

"  Liddy  had  a  feather  fan,  an'  she  used  to  sit  an'  fan  her 
when  she  wa'n't  singin',  an'  she  allers  had  scent  on  her  hand- 
kercher.  An'  when  meetin'  was  done  in  the  evenin'  all  the 
young  fellars  used  to  be  crowdin'  'round,  an'  pushin'  and 
bowin'  an'  scrapin',  a-tryin'  to  get  a  chance  to  see  her  home. 
But  Liddy  she  wouldn't  look  at  none  of  them ;  she  married 
a  real  rich  fellar  from  Bostown.  He  was  jest  as  straight  as 
an  arrer,  an'  he  had  black  eyes  an'  hair,  an'  he  wore  a  beauti 
ful  coat  an'  a  satin  vest,  an'  he  spoke  jest  as  perlite. 


"  When  Liddy  was  married  she  had  a  whole  chistful  of 
clothes,  real  fine  cotton  cloth,  all  tucks  an'  laid-work,  an'  she 
had  a  pair  of  silk  stockin's,  an'  some  white  shoes.  An'  her 
weddin'  dress  was  white  satin,  with  a  great  long  trail  to  it, 
an'  she  had  a  lace  veil,  an'  she  wore  great  long  ear-drops 
that  shone  like  everythin'.  Ari  she  come  out  bride  in  a 
blue  silk  dress,  an'  a  black  lace  mantilly,  an'  a  white  bunnit 
trimmed  with  lutestring  ribbon." 

"  Where  did  your  sister  Liddy  live  arter  she  was  married  ?" 
inquired  the  pretty  old  woman,  with  a  subdued  air. 

"  She  lived  in  Bostown,  an'  she  had  a  great  big  house  with 
a  parlor  an'  settin'-room,  an'  a  room  to  eat  in  besides  the 
kitchen.  An'  she  had  real  velvet  carpets  on  all  the  floors 
down  to  the  kitchen,  an'  great  pictur's  in  gilt  frames  a-hangin' 
on  all  the  walls.  An'  her  furnitur'  was  all  stuffed,  an'  kiv- 
ered  with  red  velvet,  an'  she  had  a  pianner,  an'  great  big 
marble  images  a-settin'  on  her  mantel-shelf.  An'  she  had  a 
coach  with  lamps  on  the  sides,  an'  blue  satin  cushings,  to 
ride  in,  an'  four  horses  to  draw  it,  an'  a  man  to  drive.  An'  she 
allers  had  a  hired  girl  in  the  kitchen.  I  never  knowed  Liddy 
to  be  without  a  hired  girl. 

"  Liddy's  husband,  he  thought  everythin'  of  her  \  he  never 
used  to  come  home  from  his  work  without  he  brought  her 
somethin',  an'  she  used  to  run  out  to  meet  him.  She  was 
allers  dretful  lovin',  an'  had  a  good  disposition.  Liddy,  she 
had  the  beautifulest  baby  you  ever  see,  an'  she  had  a  cradle 
lined  with  blue  silk  to  rock  him  in,  an'  he  had  a  white  silk 
cloak,  an'  a  leetle  lace  cap — " 

"  I  shouldn't  think  your  beautiful  sister  Liddy  an'  her  hus 
band  would  let  you  come  to  the  poor-house,"  interrupted  the 
dark  old  woman. 

"  Liddv's  dead,  or  she  wouldn't." 


"  Are  her  husband  an'  the  baby  dead,  too  ?" 

"  They're  all  dead,"  responded  Polly  Moss.  She  looked 
out  of  the  window  again,  her  face  was  a  burning  red,  and 
there  were  tears  in  her  eyes. 

There  was  silence  among  the  other  old  women.  They 
were  at  once  overawed  and  incredulous.  Polly  left  the  room 
before  long,  then  they  began  to  discuss  the  matter.  "  I 
dun  know  whether  to  believe  it  or  not,"  said  the  dark  old 

"Well,  I  dun  know,  neither;  I  never  knowed  her  to  tell 
anythin'  that  wa'n't  so,"  responded  the  stout  old  one,  doubt 

The  old  women  could  not  make  up  their  minds  whether 
to  believe  or  disbelieve.  The  pretty  one  was  the  most  in 
credulous  of  any.  She  said  openly  that  she  did  not  believe 
it  possible  that  such  a  "  homely  cretur"  as  Polly  Moss  could 
have  had  such  a  handsome  sister. 

But,  credulous  or  not,  their  interest  and  curiosity  were 
lively.  Every  day  Polly  Moss  was  questioned  and  cross- 
examined  concerning  her  sister  Liddy.  She  rose  to  the  oc 
casion  ;  she  did  not  often  contradict  herself,  and  the  glories 
of  her  sister  were  increased  daily.  Old  Polly  Moss,  her 
little  withered  face  gleaming  with  reckless  enthusiasm,  sang 
the  praises  of  her  sister  Liddy  as  wildly  and  faithfully  as  any 
minnesinger  his  angel  mistress,  and  the  old  women  listened 
with  ever-increasing  bewilderment  and  awe. 

It  was  two  weeks  before  Polly  Moss  died  with  pneumo 
nia  that  she  first  mentioned  her  sister  Liddy,  and  there  was 
not  one  afternoon  until  the  day  when  she  was  taken  ill  that 
she  did  not  relate  the  story,  with  new  and  startling  additions, 
to  the  old  women. 

Polly  was  not  ill  long,  she  settled  meekly  down  under  the 


disease :  her  little  distorted  frame  had  no  resistance  in  it. 
She  died  at  three  o'clock  in  the  morning.  The  afternoon 
before,  she  seemed  better ;  she  was  quite  rational,  and  she 
told  the  matron  that  she  wanted  to  see  her  comrades,  the 
old  women.  "  I've  got  somethin'  to  tell  'em,  Mis'  Arms," 
Polly  whispered,  and  her  eyes  were  piteous. 

So  the  other  old  women  came  into  the  room.  They  stood 
around  Polly's  little  iron  bed  and  looked  at  her.  "  I — want 
to — tell  you — somethin',''  she  began.  But  there  was  a  soft 
rush,  and  the  sick  young  woman  entered.  She  pressed 
straight  to  the  matron;  she  disregarded  the  others.  Her 
wan  face  seemed  a  very  lamp  of  life — to  throw  a  light  over 
and  above  all  present  darkness,  even  of  the  grave.  She 
moved  nimbly;  she  was  so  full  of  joy  that  her  sickly  body 
seemed  permeated  by  it,  and  almost  a  spiritual  one.  She 
did  not  appear  in  the  least  feeble.  She  caught  the  matron's 
arm.  "  Charley  has  come,  Mis'  Arms !"  she  cried  out. 
"  Charley  has  come  !  He's  got  a  house  ready.  He's  goin' 
to  marry  me,  an'  take  me  home,  an'  take  care  of  me  till  I 
get  well.  I'm  goin'  right  away !" 

The  old  women  all  turned  away  from  Polly  and  stared  at 
the  radiant  girl.  The  matron  sent  her  away,  with  a  promise 
to  see  her  in  a  few  minutes.  "  Polly's  dyin',''  she  whispered, 
and  the  girl  stole  out  with  a  hushed  air,  but  the  light  in  her 
face  was  not  dimmed.  What  was  death  to  her,  when  she 
had  just  stepped  on  a  height  of  life  where  one  can  see  be 
yond  it? 

"Tell  them  what  you  wanted  to,  now,  Polly,"  said  the 

"I— want  to  tell  you  — somethin',"  Polly  repeated.  "I 
s'pose  I've  been  dretful  wicked,  but  I  ain't  never  had 
nothin'  in  my  whole  life.  I — s'pose  the  Lord  orter  have 


been  enough,  but  it's  dretful  hard  sometimes  to  keep  holt  of 
him,  an'  not  look  anywheres  else,  when  you  see  other  folks 
a-clawin'  an'  gettin'  other  things,  an'  actin'  as  if  they  was 
wuth  havin'.  I  ain't  never  had  nothin'  as  fur  as  them  other 
things  go ;  I  don't  want  nothin'  else  now.  I've — got  past 
'em.  I  see  I  don't  want  nothin'  but  the  Lord.  But  I  used 
to  feel  dretful  bad  an'  wicked  when  I  heerd  you  all  talkin' 
'bout  things  you'd  had,  an'  I  hadn't  never  had  nothin',  so — " 
Polly  Moss  stopped  talking,  and  coughed.  The  matron  sup 
ported  her.  The  old  women  nudged  each  other ;  their 
awed,  sympathetic,  yet  sharply  inquiring  eyes  never  left  her 
face.  The  children  were  peeping  in  at  the  open  door ;  old 
Sally  trotted  past — she  had  just  torn  her  bed  to  pieces.  As 
soon  as  she  got  breath  enough,  Polly  Moss  finished  what 
she  had  to  say.  "  I — s'pose  I — was  dretful  wicked,"  she 
whispered ;  "  but — I  never  had  any  sister  Liddy." 


"  Mis'  NEWHALL  !" 

The  tall,  thin  figure  on  the  other  side  of  the  street  pushed 
vigorously  past.  It  held  it's  black -bonneted  head  back 
stiffly,  and  strained  its  green- and-black  woollen  shawl  tighter 
across  its  slim  shoulders. 


The  figure  stopped  with  a  jerk.  "Oh,  it's  you,  Marthy. 
Pleasant  afternoon,  ain't  it  ?" 

"  Ain't  you  comin'  in  ?" 

"Well,  I  don't  jest  see  how  I  can  this  afternoon.  I  was 
goin'  up  to  Ellen's." 

"Can't  you  jest  come  over  a  minute  and  see  my  calla- 
lilies  ?" 

"  Well,  I  don't  see  how  I  can.  I  can  see  'em  up  to  the 
window.  Beautiful,  ain't  they?" 

"  You  can't  see  nuthin'  of  'em  out  there.  Why  can't  you 
come  in  jest  a  minute  ?  There  ain't  a  soul  been  in  to  see 
'em  this  week,  and  'tain't  often  they  blow  out  this  way." 

"  Who's  in  there  ?— anybody  ?" 

"No;  there  ain't  a  soul  but  me  to  home.  Hannah's 
gone  over  to  Wayne.  Can't  you  come  in  ?" 

"  Well,  I  dunno  but  I'll  come  over  jest  a  minute ;  but  I 
can't  stay.  I  hadn't  ought  to  stop  at  all." 


Martha  Wing  waited  for  her  in  the  door ;  she  was  quiv 
ering  with  impatience  to  show  her  the  lilies.  "Come 
right  in,"  she  cried,  when  the  visitor  came  up  the  walk. 

When  she  turned  to  follow  her  in  she  limped  painfully; 
one  whole  side  seemed  to  succumb  so  nearly  that  it  was 
barely  rescued  by  a  quick  spring  from  the  other. 

"  How's  your  lameness  ?"  asked  Mrs.  Newhall. 

"Martha's  soft  withered  face  flushed.  "Here  air  the 
lilies,"  she  said,  shortly. 

"  My  !  ain't  they  beautiful !" 

"Tain't  often  you  see  seven  lilies  and  two  buds  to 

"  Well,  'tain't,  that's  a  fact.  Ellen  thought  hers  was  pret 
ty  handsome,  but  it  can't  shake  a  stick  at  this.  Hers  ain't 
got  but  three  on  it.  I'd  like  to  know  what  you  do  to  it, 

"  I  don't  do  nuthin'.  Flowers  '11  grow  for  some  folks, 
and  that's  all  there  is  about  it.  I  allers  had  jest  sech  luck." 
Martha  stood  staring  at  the  lilies.  A  self-gratulation  that 
had  something  noble  about  it  was  in  her  smiling  old  face. 

"I  tell  Hannah,"  she  went  on,  "if  I  be  miser'ble  in 
health,  an'  poor,  flowers  '11  blow  for  me,  and  that's  more 
than  they'll  do  for  some  folks,  no  matter  how  hard  they 
try.  Look  at  Mis'  Walker  over  there.  I  can't  help  think- 
in'  of  it  sometimes  when  I  see  her  go  nippin'  past  with  her 
ruffles  and  gimcracks.  She's  young  an'  good-lookin',  but 
she's  had  her  calla-lily  five  year,  an'  she  ain't  had  but  one 
bud,  and  that  blasted." 

"Well,  flowers  is  a  good  deal  of  company." 

"  I  guess  they  air.  They're  most  as  good  as  folks.  Mis' 
Newhall,  why  don't  Jennie  come  in  an'  see  Hannah  some 


All  the  lines  in  Mrs.  Newhall's  face  lengthened.  She 
looked  harder  at  the  callas.  "  Well,  I  dunno,  Marthy ; 
Jenny  don't  go  much  of  anywhere.  Those  lilies  are  beau 
tiful.  You'd  ought  to  have  'em  carried  into  the  meetin'- 
house  next  Sunday,  an'  set  in  front  of  the  pulpit." 

Martha  turned  white.  Her  voice  quavered  up  shrilly. 
*  There's  one  lily  I  could  mention  's  been  took  out  of  that 
meetin'-house,  Maria  Newhall,  an'  there  ain't  no  more  of 
mine  goin'  to  be  took  in,  not  if  I  know  it." 

"  Now,  Marthy,  you  know  I  didn't  mean  a  thing.  I  no 
more  dreamed  of  hurtin'  your  feelin's  than  the  dead." 

"  No,  I  don't  s'pose  you  did ;  an'  I  don't  s'pose  your 
Jenny  an'  the  other  girls  mean  anything  by  stayin'  away 
an'  never  comin'  near  Hannah.  They  act  as  if  they  was 
afraid  of  her ;  but  I  guess  she  wouldn't  hurt  'em  none.  She's 
as  good  as  any  of  'em,  an'  they'll  find  it  out  some  day." 

"  Now,  Marthy—" 

"  You  needn't  talk.  I  know  all  about  it.  I've  heerd  a 
good  deal  of  palaver,  but  I  kin  see  through  it.  I — " 

"Well,  I  guess  I'll  have  to  be  goin',  Marthy.  Good- 

Martha  suddenly  recovered  her  dignity.  "Good-after 
noon,  Mis'  Newhall,"  said  she,  and  relapsed  into  silence. 

After  the  door  had  closed  behind  her  guest,  she  sat 
down  at  the  window  with  her  knitting.  She  had  an  old 
shawl  over  her  shoulders ;  the  room  was  very  chilly.  She 
pursed  up  her  lips  and  knitted  very  fast,  a  lean,  homely 
figure  in  the  clean,  bare  room,  with  its  bulging  old  satin- 
papered  walls.  A  square  of  pale  sunlight  lay  on  the  thin, 
dull  carpet,  and  the  pot  of  calla-lilies  stood  in  the  window. 

Before  long  Hannah  came.  She  entered  without  a 
word,  and  stood  silently  taking  off  her  wraps. 



"  Did  you  git  your  pay,  Hannah  ?" 


When  Hannah  laid  aside  her  thick,  faded  shawl,  she 
showed  a  tall  young  figure  in  a  clinging  old  woollen  gown 
of  a  drab  color.  She  stooped  a  little,  although  the  stoop 
did  not  seem  anything  but  the  natural  result  of  her  tallness, 
and  was  thus  graceful  rather  than  awkward.  It  was  as  if 
her  whole  slender  body  bent  from  her  feet,  lily  fashion. 
She  got  a  brush  out  of  a  little  chimney  cupboard  and  be 
gan  smoothing  her  light  hair,  which  her  hood  had  rumpled 
a  little.  She  had  a  full,  small  face ;  there  was  a  lovely 
delicate  pink  on  her  cheeks.  People  said  of  Hannah, 
"  She  is  delicate-looking."  They  said  "  delicate  "  in  the 
place  of  pretty ;  it  suited  her  better. 

"  Why  don't  you  say  somethin'  ?"  Martha  asked,  queru 

"  What  do  you  want  me  to  say  ?" 

"Where's  your  bundle  of  boots?" 

"I  haven't  got  any." 

"  Ain't  got  no  boots  ?" 

"  No." 

"  Didn't  Mr.  Allen  give  you  any  ?" 


"Ain't  he  going  to?" 


"Why  not?" 

Hannah  went  on  brushing  her  hair,  and  made  no  answer. 

"  Has— he  heard  of— that  ?" 

"  I  suppose  so." 

"What  did  he  say?" 

"  Said  he  couldn't  trust  me  to  take  any  more  boots 
home."  One  soft  flush  spread  over  Hannah's  face  as  she 


said  that,  then  it  receded.  She  knelt  down  by  the  air-tight 
stove  and  began  poking  the  fire. 

"Course  he'd  heerd,  then.  What  air  you  goin'  to  do, 

"  I  don't  know." 

"  You  take  it  easy  'nough,  I  hope.  Ef  you  don't  hev 
work,  I  don't  see  what's  goin'  to  keep  a  roof  over  us." 

Hannah,  going  out  into  the  kitchen,  half  turned  in 
the  doorway.  "  Don't  worry,  I'll  get  some  work  some 
where,  I  guess,"  she  said. 

But  Martha  kept  on  calling  out  her  complaint  in  a  shriller 
voice,  so  Hannah  could  hear  as  she  stepped  about  in  the 
other  room.  "  I  don't  see  what  you're  goin'  to  do ;  I'm 
'bout  discouraged.  Mis'  Newhall,  she's  been  in  here,  pre 
tended  she  wanted  to  see  my  caller,  but  she  give  me  no  end 
of  digs,  the  way  she  allers  does.  This  kind  of  work  is  killin' 
me.  Here's  this  calla-lily's  been  blowed  out  the  way  it  has 
lately,  an'  not  a  soul  comin'  in  to  see  it.  Hannah  Redman, 
I  don't  see  what  possessed  you  to  do  such  a  thing." 

No  answering  voice  came  from  the  kitchen. 

"  You  did  do  it,  didn't  you,  Hannah  ?  You  wouldn't  let 
folks  go  on  in  this  way  if  you  hadn't." 

Hannah  said  nothing.  Martha  broke  into  a  fit  of  loud 
weeping.  She  held  her  hands  over  her  face,  and  rocked 
herself  back  and  forth  in  her  chair.  "  Oh  me !  Oh  me  !" 
she  wailed,  shrilly. 

Hannah  paid  no  attention.  She  went  about  getting  tea 
ready.  It  was  a  frugal  meal,  bread  and  butter  and  weak 
tea,  but  she  fried  a  bit  of  ham  and  put  it  on  Martha's  plate. 
The  old  woman  liked  something  hearty  for  supper. 

"Come,"  she  said  at  length  —  "come,  Martha,  tea's 


"  I  don't  want  nothin',"  wailed  the  old  woman.  But  she 
sat  sniffing  down  at  the  table,  and  ate  heartily. 

After  tea  Hannah  got  her  hood  and  shawl  and  went  out 
again.  It  was  a  chilly  March  night ;  the  clouds  were  flying 
wildly,  there  was  an  uncertain  moon,  the  ground  was  cov 
ered  with  melting  snow.  Hannah  held  up  her  skirts  and 
stepped  along  through  the  slush.  The  snow-water  pene 
trated  her  old  shoes ;  she  had  no  rubbers. 

Presently  she  stopped  and  rang  a  door-bell.  The  wom 
an  who  answered  it  stood  eying  her  amazedly  a  minute 
before  she  spoke.  "  Good-evenin',  Hannah,"  she  said, 
stiffly,  at  length. 

"  Good-evening,  Mrs.  Ward.     Are  your  boarders  in  ?" 

"  Y-e-s." 

"  Can  I  see  them  ?" 

"  Well — I  guess  so.  Mis'  Mellen,  she's  been  pretty  busy 
all  day.  Come  in,  won't  you  ?" 

Hannah  followed  her  into  the  lighted  sitting-room.  A 
young,  smooth-faced  man  and  a  woman  who  looked  older 
and  stronger  were  in  there.  Mrs.  Ward  introduced  them 
in  an  embarrassed  way  to  Hannah.  "  Mis'  Mellen,  this  is 
Miss  Redman,"  said  she,  "  an'  Mr.  Mellen." 

Hannah  opened  at  once  upon  the  subject  of  her  errand. 
She  had  heard  that  the  Mellens  wished  to  begin  house 
keeping,  and  were  anxious  to  hire  a  tenement.  She  pro 
posed  that  they  should  hire  her  house;  she  and  Martha 
would  reserve  only  two  rooms  for  themselves.  The  rent 
which  she  suggested  was  very  low.  The  husband  and  wife 
looked  at  each  other. 

"  We  might — go  and  look  at  it — to-morrow,"  he  said, 
hesitatingly,  with  his  eyes  on  his  wife. 

"  We'll  come  in  some  time  to-morrow  and  see  how  it 


suits,"  said  she,  in  a  crisp  voice.  "  Perhaps  — "  She 
stopped  suddenly.  Mrs.  Ward  had  given  her  a  violent 
nudge.  But  she  looked  wonderingly  at  her  and  kept  on. 
"  We  should  want — "  said  she. 

"  It  ain't  anything  you  want,  Mis'  Mellen,"  spoke  up  Mrs. 

"  Why,  what's  the  trouble  ?" 

"You  don't  want  it;  'twon't  suit  you."  Mrs.  Ward 
nodded  significantly. 

Hannah  looked  at  one  and  the  other.  The  delicate  color 
in  her  cheeks  deepened  a  little,  but  she  spoke  softly. 
"  There  are  locks  and  keys  on  the  doors,"  said  she. 

Mrs.  Ward  colored  furiously.  "  I  didn't  mean — "  she 
began.  Then  she  stopped. 

Hannah  arose.  "  If  you  want  to  come  and  look  at  the 
rooms,  I'll  be  glad  to  show  them,"  said  she.  She  stood 
waiting  with  a  dignity  which  had  something  appealing 
about  it. 

"  Well,  I'll  see,"  said  Mrs.  Mellen. 

After  Hannah  had  gone  she  turned  eagerly  to  Mrs. 
Ward.  "  What  is  the  matter  ?"  said  she. 

"  'Tain't  safe  for  you  to  go  there,  unless— you  want  all 
your  things — stole" 

"Why,  does  she— " 

"She  stole  some  money  from  John  Arnold  up  here  a 
year  ago.  That's  a  fact." 

"  You  don't  mean  it !" 

"  Yes.  She  was  sewin'  up  there.  He  left  it  on  the  sit 
tin'-room  table  a  minute,  an'  when  he  came  back  it  was 
gone.  There  hadn't  been  anybody  but  her  in  the  room,  so 
of  course  she  took  it." 

"  Did  he  get  the  money  back  ?" 


"  That  was  the  queer  part  of  it.  Nobody  could  ever  find 
out  what  she  did  with  the  money." 

"  Didn't  they  take  her  up?" 

"  No ;  they  made  a  good  deal  of  fuss  about  it  at  first,  but 
Mr.  Arnold  didn't  prosecute  her.  I  s'pose  he  thought  they 
couldn't  really  prove  anything,  not  findin'  the  money.  And 
then  he's  a  deacon  of  the  church ;  he'd  hate  to  do  such  a 
thing,  anyway.  But  everybody  in  town  thinks  she  took  it, 
fast  enough.  Nobody  has  anything  to  do  with  her.  She  used 
to  go  out  sewin'  for  folks,  but  they  say  she  stole  lots  of  pieces. 
I  heard  she  took  enough  black  silk  here  and  there  to  make 
a  dress.  Nobody  has  her  now,  that  I  know  of.  You  don't 
want  anybody  in  your  house  that  you  can't  trust." 

"  Of  course  you  don't." 

"  She  was  a  church  member,  an'  it  came  up  before  the 
church,  an'  they  dismissed  her.  They  asked  her  if  it  was 
so,  an'  she  wouldn't  answer  one  word,  yes  or  no.  They 
couldn't  get  a  thing  out  of  her." 

"  Well,  of  course  if  she  hadn't  taken  it  she'd  said  so." 

"  It's  likely  she  would." 

"  I'm  real  glad  you  told  me.  I'd  hated  awfully  to  have 
gone  in  there  with  anybody  like  that." 

"  I  thought  you  would.  I  felt  as  if  I  ought  to  tell  you, 
seein'  as  you  was  strangers  here.  I  kind  of  pity  her.  I 
s'pose  she  thought  she  could  raise  a  littte  money  that  way. 
I  guess  she's  havin'  a  pretty  hard  time.  She  can't  get  no 
work  anywhere.  She's  been  sewin'  boots  for  Allen  over  in 
Wayne,  but  I  heard  the  other  day  he  was  goin'  to  shut 
down  on  her.  She's  gettin'  some  of  her  punishment  in 
this  world.  Folks  said  Arnold's  son  George  had  a  notion 
of  goin'  with  her  once,  but  I  guess  it  put  a  stop  to  that 
pretty  quick.  He's  down  East  somewhere." 


Hannah,  plodding  along  out  in  the  windy,  moonlit  night, 
knew  as  well  what  they  were  saying  as  if  she  had  been  at 
their  elbows.  The  wind  sung  in  her  ears,  the  light  clouds 
drove  overhead ;  those  nearest  the  moon  had  yellow  edges. 
Hannah  kept  looking  up  at  them. 

She  had  five  dollars  and  fifty  cents  in  her  pocket,  and 
no  prospect  of  more.  She  had  herself  and  a  helpless  old 
relative  to  support.  All  the  village,  every  friend  and  ac 
quaintance  she  had  ever  had,  were  crying  out  against  her. 
That  was  the  case  of  Hannah  Redman  when  she  entered 
her  silent  house  that  night ;  but  she  followed  her  old  rela 
tive  to  bed,  and  went  to  sleep  like  a  child. 

The  next  morning  she  got  out  an  old  blue  cashmere  of 
hers  and  began  ripping  it. 

"What  are  you  goin'  to  do?"  asked  Martha,  who  had 
been  eying  her  furtively  all  the  morning. 

"I'm  going  to  make  over  this  dress.  I  haven't  got  a 
thing  fit  to  wear." 

"I  shouldn't  think  you'd  feel  much  like  fixin'  over 
dresses.  I  don't  see  what's  goin'  to  become  of  us.  I  don't 
s'pose  a  soul  will  be  in  to  see  my  calla-lily  to-day.  It's  kill- 
in'  me." 

Hannah  said  nothing,  but  she  worked  steadily  on  the 
dress  all  day.  She  turned  it,  and  it  looked  like  new. 

The  next  day  was  Sunday.  Hannah,  going  to  church  in 
her  remodelled  dress,  heard  distinctly  some  one  behind  her 
say,  "  See,  Hannah  Redman's  got  a  new  dress,  I  do  believe. 
I  shouldn't  think  she'd  feel  much  like  it,  should  you?" 

Hannah  sat  alone  in  the  pew,  where  her  father  and 
mother  had  sat  before  her.  They  had  all  been  church- 
going  people.  Hannah  herself  had  been  a  member  ever 
since  her  childhood.  Not  one  Sunday  had  she  missed  of 


stepping  modestly  up  the  aisle  in  her  humble  Sunday  best, 
and  seating  herself  with  gentle  gravity.  The  pew  was  a 
conspicuous  one  beside  the  pulpit,  at  right  angles  with  the 
others.  Hannah  was  in  full  view  of  the  whole  congrega 
tion.  She  sat  erect  and  composed  in  her  pretty  dress. 
The  delicate  color  in  her  cheeks  was  the  same  as  ever ; 
her  soft  eyes  were  as  steady.  She  found  the  hymns  and 
sang ;  she  listened  to  the  preaching. 

Women  looked  at  her,  then  at  one  another.  Hannah 
knew  it.  Still  it  had  never  been  as  bad  since  that  first 
Sunday  after  her  dismissal  from  the  church. 

There  had  been  a  tangible  breeze  then  that  had  whistled 
in  her  ears.  Nobody  had  dreamed  that  she  would  come  to 
meeting,  but  she  came. 

There  was  no  question  but  that  Hannah's  unshaken  de 
meanor  brought  somewhat  harder  judgment  upon  herself. 
A  smile  in  an  object  of  pity  is  a  grievance.  The  one  claim 
which  Hannah  now  had  upon  her  friends  she  did  not  extort, 
consequently  she  got  nothing.  She  showed  no  need  of  pity, 
and  was,  if  anything,  more  condemned  for  that  than  for  her 
actual  fault. 

"  If  she  wasn't  so  dreadful  bold,"  they  said.  "  If  she 
acted  as  if  she  felt  bad  about  it." 

In  one  of  the  foremost  body-pews  sat  John  Arnold,  a 
large,  fair-faced  old  man,  who  wore  his  white  hair  like  a  ton 
sure.  He  never  looked  at  Hannah.  He  had  a  gold-headed 
cane.  He  clasped  both  hands  around  it,  and  leaned 
heavily  forward  upon  it  as  he  listened.  It  was  a  habit  of 
his.  He  settled  himself  solemnly  into  this  attitude  at  his 
entrance.  People  watched  him  respectfully.  John  Arnold 
was  the  one  wealthy  man  in  this  poor  country  church. 
Over  across  the  aisle  a  shattered,  threadbare  old  grandfa- 


ther  leaned  impressively  upon  his  poor  pine  stick  in  the 
same  way  that  John  Arnold  did.  He  stole  frequent,  studious 
glances  at  him.  He  was  an  artist  who  made  himself  into  a 

There  was  a  communion-service  to-day.  After  the  ser 
mon  Hannah  arose  quietly  and  went  down  the  aisle  with  the 
non-communicants.  She  felt  people  looking  at  her,  but 
when  she  turned,  their  eyes  were  somewhere  else.  No  one 
spoke  to  her. 

"  Did  anybody  speak  to  you  ?"  old  Martha  asked  when 
she  got  home. 

"No,"  said  Hannah. 

"  I  don't  see  how  you  stand  it.  I  should  think  it  would 
kill  you,  an'  you  don't  look  as  if  it  wore  on  you  a  bit.  Han 
nah,  what  made  you  do  sech  a  thing?" 

Hannah  said  nothing. 

"I  should  think,  after  the  way  your  father  an'  mother 
brought  you  up —  Well,  it's  killin'  me.  I've  been  most 
crazy  the  whole  forenoon  thinkin*  on't.  What  air  you  goin' 
to  do  if  you  can't  git  no  work,  Hannah  ?" 

"  I  guess  I  can  get  some,  perhaps." 

"  I  don't  see  where." 

The  next  morning  Hannah  went  over  to  East  Wayne,  a 
town  about  four  miles  away.  There  was  a  new  boot-and- 
shoe  manufactory  there,  and  she  thought  she  might  get 
some  employment.  The  overseer  was  a  pleasant  young 
fellow,  who  treated  her  courteously.  They  had  no  work 
just  then,  but  trade  was  improving.  He  told  her  to  come 
again  in  a  month. 

"  I  rather  guess  I  can  get  some  work  over  at  the  new 
shop  in  East  Wayne/'  she  said  to  Martha  when  she  got 


11  They'll  hear  on't,  an'  then  you'll  lose  it,  jest  the  way 
you've  done  before,"  was  Martha's  reply. 

But  Hannah  lived  on  the  hope  of  it  for  a  month.  She 
literally  lived  on  little  else.  They  had  some  potatoes  and 
a  few  apples  in  the  cellar.  Hannah  ate  them.  With  her 
little  stock  of  money  she  bought  food  for  Martha. 

At  the  end  of  the  month  she  walked  over  to  East  Wayne 
again.  The  overseer  remembered  her.  He  greeted  her 
very  pleasantly,  but  his  honest  young  face  flushed. 

"I'm  real  sorry,"  he  stammered,  "but — I'm  afraid  we 
can't  give  you  any  work." 

Hannah  turned  white.     He  had  heard. 

"  As  far  as  I  am  concerned,"  he  went  on,  "  I  would  ;  but 
it  don't  depend  on  me,  you  know."  He  stood  staring  irres 
olutely  at  Hannah. 

"  See  here,  wait  a  minute,"  said  he,  "  I'll  speak  to  the 

Pretty  soon  he  returned  with  a  troubled  look.  "  It's  no 
use,"  said  he  ;  "  he  says  he  hasn't  got  any  work." 

"  Will  he  have  any  by-and-by  ?"  asked  Hannah,  feebly. 

"  I'm  afraid  not,"  replied  the  young  man,  pitifully.  He 
opened  the  door  for  her.  "  Good-by,"  he  said  ;  "  don't  get 

Hannah  looked  at  him,  then  the  tears  sprang  to  her  eyes. 
"  Thank  you,"  she  said. 

When  she  got  past  the  shop  she  sat  down  on  a  stone  be 
side  the  road  and  cried.  "  I  wish  he  hadn't  spoken  kind  to 
me,"  she  whispered,  sobbingly,  to  herself — "  I  wish  he 

The  road  was  bordered  with  willow  bushes ;  they  were 
just  beginning  to  bud.  The  new  grass  was  springing,  and 
there  was  a  smell  of  it  in  the  air.  Presently  Hannah  rose 


and  walked  on.  She  had  ten  cents  in  her  pocket.  She 
stopped  at  a  store  on  her  way  home  and  bought  with  it  a 
herring  and  a  couple  of  fresh  biscuit  for  Martha's  supper. 
She  ate  nothing  herself.  She  said  she  was  not  hungry. 

"  I  knew  they'd  hear  on't,"  Martha  said,  when  she  told 
her  of  her  disappointment. 

The  next  day  Hannah  tried  to  raise  some  money  on  her 
house.  It  was  a  large  cottage,  somewhat  out  of  repair ;  it 
was  worth  some  twenty-five  hundred  dollars. 

Hannah  could  not  obtain  a  loan  of  a  cent  upon  it. 
There  was  no  bank  in  the  village,  and  only  one  wealthy 
man,  John  Arnold.  She  would  not  apply  to  him,  and  the 
others,  close-fisted,  narrow-minded  farmers,  were  afraid  of 
some  trap,  they  knew  not  what,  in  the  transaction. 

"How  do  I  know  you'll  pay  me  the  interest  regular?" 
asked  one  man. 

"  If  I  don't,  you  can  take  the  house,"  said  Hannah. 

"  How  do  I  know  I  can  ?"  The  man  looked  after  her 
with  an  air  of  dull  triumph  as  she  went  away,  drooping 
more  than  ever.  She  was  faint  from  want  of  food.  Still, 
the  look  of  delicate  resolution  had  not  gone  from  her  face. 
She  went  home,  got  out  a  heavy  gold  watch-chain  which 
had  belonged  to  her  father,  took  it  over  to  Wayne,  and 
offered  it  to  a  jeweller.  He  looked  at  her  and  it  curiously. 
The  chain  was  an  old  one,  but  heavy  and  solid. 

"What's  your  name  !"  asked  the  jeweller. 

"  Hannah  Redman." 

He  pushed  it  towards  her.  "  No,  I  guess  I  can't  take  it. 
We  have  to  be  pretty  careful  about  these  things,  you  know. 
If  any  question  should  come  up — " 

Hannah  put  the  chain  in  her  pocket  and  went  home. 
Old  Martha  greeted  her  fretfully. 


"  I've  been  dretful  lonesome,"  said  she.  "  There's  an 
other  lily  blowed  out,  an'  there  ain't  a  soul  been  in  to  see  it." 

Hannah  sat  looking  at  her  moodily.  If  it  were  not  for 
this  old  woman  she  would  lock  her  house  and  leave  the 
village  this  very  night.  It  must  be  that  she  would  find 
toleration  somewhere  in  the  great  world.  Some  of  her 
kind  would  be  willing  to  let  her  live.  But  here  was  Martha, 
whom  she  would  not  leave;  Martha  and  her  calla-lily, 
which  to  a  fanciful  mind  might  well  seem  a  very  part  of 
her ;  maybe  the  grace  and  beauty  which  her  querulous  old 
age  lacked  came  to  her  in  this  form.  At  all  events  it  recom 
pensed  her  for  them  in  a  measure.  Martha  plus  her  calla- 
lily  might  equal  something  almost  beautiful — who  knew  ? 

Looking  at  this  helpless  old  creature,  something  stronger 
than  love  took  possession  of  Hannah — a  spirit  of  fierce 
protection  and  faithfulness. 

"Why  don't  you  take  your  things  off?"  Martha  groaned. 

"  I'm  going  out  again." 

When  Hannah  gathered  herself  up  and  went  out  she  had 
a  fixed  purpose  ;  she  was  going  to  get  some  supper  for 
Martha.  There  was  not  a  morsel  in  the  house.  Martha 
must  have  something  to  eat.  There  was  nothing  desperate 
in  her  mind,  only  that  fixed  intention — the  food  she  would 
have,  she  did  not  know  how,  but  she  would  have  it. 

She  was  so  weak  from  fasting  that  she  could  scarcely 
step  herself,  but  she  did  not  think  of  that.  "  It's  awful  for 
an  old  woman  to  go  hungry,"  she  muttered,  going  down  the 

There  was  some  kindly  women  in  the  village ;  they  would 
give  her  food  if  they  knew  of  her  terrible  need,  she  was  sure 
of  it ;  she  had  only  to  ask.  She  paused  at  several  gates ; 
once  she  laid  her  hand  on  a  latch,  then  she  moved  on. 


She  could  not  beg  with  this  stigma  upon  her.  Suddenly 
in  her  weakness  a  half  delirious  fancy  took  possession  of 
her.  She  seemed  to  be  thinking  other  people's  thoughts 
of  herself  instead  of  her  own.  "  There's  that  Hannah  Red 
man,"  she  thought ;  "  the  girl  that  stole.  Now  she's  gone 
to  begging.  Who  wants  to  give  to  a  girl  like  that  ?  What's 
the  sense  of  her  begging  ?  She's  down  as  low  as  she  can 
be  ;  if  she  wants  anything,  why  doesn't  she  steal  ?  It's  all 
over  with  her.  People  can't  think  any  worse  of  her  than 
they  do  now." 

Hannah  came  to  the  post-office,  and  entered  mechani 
cally.  The  post-office  merely  occupied  a  corner  of  the 
large  country  store.  The  postmaster  dealt  out  postage- 
stamps  or  cheeses  to  demand.  When  Hannah  entered 
there  was  no  one  in  the  great  rank  room.  The  proprietor 
had  gone  to  tea ;  the  two  clerks  were  out  in  the  back  yard 
unloading  a  team.  It  was  not  the  hour  for  customers. 

Hannah  glanced  about.  A  great  heap  of  fresh  loaves 
was  on  the  counter  near  the  door.  She  leaned  over  and 
smelled  of  them  hungrily,  then — she  snatched  one,  hid  it 
under  her  shawl,  and  went  out. 

"  Hannah  Redman  has  been  stealing  again,"  she  thought, 
with  those  thoughts  of  others,  as  she  went  down  the  street. 

She  made  the  bread  into  some  toast  for  Martha,  and  the 
old  woman  ate  it  complainingly.  "  I'd  ha'  relished  a  leetle 
bit  of  bacon,"  she  muttered. 

"  Hannah  Redman  might  just  as  well  have  stolen  some 
bacon  while  she  was  about  it,"  she  thought.  She  could  not 
touch  the  bread  herself.  She  looked  badly  to-night ;  her 
soft  eyes  glittered,  the  delicate  fineness  of  her  color  had 
deepened.  Even  Martha  noticed  it. 

"What  makes  you  look  so  queer,  Hannah?"  she  asked. 



"  Don't  you  feel  well  ?  You  ain't  eatin'  a  thing.  I  guess 
you'd  relished  a  leetle  bit  of  meat." 

"  I'm  all  right,"  said  Hannah. 

After  the  supper  was  cleared  away,  and  old  Martha  had 
gone  to  bed,  Hannah  sat  down  by  one  of  the  front  windows. 
It  was  dusk ;  she  could  just  discern  the  dark  figures  pass 
ing  in  the  street,  but  could  not  identify  them.  Presently 
one  paused  at  her  gate,  unfastened  it,  and  entered.  Han 
nah  heard  steps  on  the  gravel  walk.  Then  there  was  a 
knock  on  the  door. 

"They've  missed  it,"  Hannah  thought.  She  wondered 
that  she  did  not  care  more.  "  Martha's  had  her  supper, 
anyhow,"  she  chuckled,  fiercely. 

She  opened  the  door.    "  Hannah,"  said  a  man's  voice. 

"  Oh  !"  she  gasped.  "  George  Arnold  !  Go  away  !  go 
away  !" 

"  Hannah,  what's  the  matter  ?  Oh,  you  poor  girl,  have  I 
frightened  you  to  death,  after  all  the  rest?  Hannah — 
there ;  lean  against  me,  dear.  You  feel  better  now,  don't 
you  ?  Don't  shake  so.  Come,  let's  go  in  and  light  a  lamp, 
and  I'll  get  you  some  water." 

"Oh, go  away!" 

"  I  guess  I  sha'n't  go  away  till —  O  Lord !  Hannah,  I 
never  knew  what  you'd  been  through  till  five  minutes  ago. 
I've  just  heard.  Hannah,  I'd  lie  down  and  die  at  your  feet 
if  it  would  do  any  good.  Oh,  you  poor  girl !" 

The  man's  voice  was  all  rough  and  husky.  Hannah 
leaned  against  the  door,  gasping  faintly,  while  he  struck  a 
match  and  lit  a  lamp.  She  never  offered  to  help  him.  He 
went  out  in  the  kitchen  and  brought  her  a  glass  of  water. 
She  pushed  it  away. 


"No,"  she  motioned  with  silent  lips. 

"  Do  take  it,  dear ;  you  look  dreadfully.  You  frighten 
me.  Take  it  just  to  please  me." 

She  took  it  then,  and  drank. 

"  There,  that's  a  good  girl.  Now  sit  down  here  while  I 
talk  to  you." 

She  sat  down  in  the  chair  he  placed  for  her,  and  he 
drew  another  beside  her.  He  sat  for  a  minute  looking  at 
her,  then  suddenly  he  reached  forward  and  seized  her 
hands.  He  held  them  tightly  while  he  talked.  "  Han 
nah,  look  here  ;  you  knew  I  took  that  money,  didn't  you  ?" 

She  nodded. 

"  And  you  let  everybody  think  you  did  it ;  you  never  said 
a  word  to  clear  yourself.  Hannah  Redman,  there  never 
was  a  woman  like  you  in  the  whole  world !  To  think  of 
everybody's  being  down  on  you,  and — your  being  turned  out 
of  the  church  !  Oh,  Lord  !  Hannah,  I  can't  bear  it." 

The  poor  fellow  fairly  sobbed  for  a  minute.  Hannah  sat 
still,  looking  straight  ahead. 

"  See  here,"  he  went  on,  "  I  want  to  tell  you  the  whole 
story,  how  I  came  to  do  it.  It  wasn't  quite  so  bad  as  it 
looked.  It  was  my  money,  really ;  it  came  from  the  sale  of 
some  woodland  that  one  of  my  uncles  gave  me  when  I  was 
a  child,  before  my  mother  died.  Father  sold  the  land  when 
I  was  about  ten,  and  put  the  money  in  the  bank.  I  knew 
about  it,  and  I'd  ask  father  a  good  many  times  to  let  me 
have  it,  but  he  never  would.  You  know  what  father  is 
about  money  matters.  He'd  put  it  in  under  his  name. 
Well,  I  wanted  a  little  money  dreadfully.  There  was  a 
good  chance — I've  made  it  pay  since,  too — but  father 
wouldn't  give  me  any.  Hannah,  father  never  gave  me  a 
dollar  to  help  me  in  business,  and  he's  a  rich  man  too. 


Well,  I  don't  know  what  possessed  him,  but  the  day  I  was 
going  away  he  drew  that  money  out  of  the  bank  ;  he  wanted 
to  invest  it  somewhere.  I  saw  it ;  he  was  counting  it  over, 
and  he  had  the  bank-book.  I  asked  him  for  it  again,  but 
he  wouldn't  let  me  have  a  dollar  of  it.  Then — I  never 
knew  him  to  be  so  careless  before  ;  I  don't  see  how  it  hap 
pened — but  he  laid  that  money  in  a  roll  on  the  sitting-room 
table.  I  saw  it  when  I  came  in  to  say  good-by  to  you,  and 
I  took  it,  and  crammed  it  into  my  pocket.  All  of  a  sudden 
I  thought  to  myself,  '  It's  my  own  money,  and  I'll  have  it.' 
You  were  looking  right  at  me  when  I  took  it,  but  I  knew 
you'd  think  it  was  mine,  I  was  so  cool  about  it.  You  did, 
didn't  you  ?" 

"  Yes." 

"  I  went  down  to  the  depot,  expecting  every  minute  I'd 
hear  father  behind  me,  but  I  got  off.  I  wrote  to  father 
after  a  while  and  owned  up,  though  I  thought  he'd  know  I 
took  it  anyway.  I  never  dreamed  of  his  making  any  fuss 
about  it.  I  didn't  think  he'd  mention  it  to  a  soul ;  and  as 
for  suspecting  you — 

"  Father  wrote  me  an  awful  letter,  but  he  didn't  say  a 
word  about  that.  He  told  me  I  needn't  come  home  again. 
I  ain't  stopping  there  now.  He  must  have  known  after 
they  accused  you,  but  he  never  said  a  word.  He  knew  I 
liked  you,  too.  Well,  I'll  clear  you,  I'll  clear  you,  dear. 
Every  soul  in  town  shall  know  just  what  you  are,  and  just 
what  you've  done,  and  then  I'm  going  to  take  you  away 
from  the  whole  of  them,  out  of  the  reach  of  their  tongues. 
I'll  do  all  I  can  to  make  it  up  to  you,  Hannah." 

"  Oh,  go  away,  George,  please  go !" 

"  Hannah,  what  do  you  mean  ?" 

"It's  all  over." 


"  Hannah !" 

"  I  wish  you'd  go  away ;  I  can't  bear  any  more." 

His  face  turned  pale  and  rigid  as  he  sat  watching  her. 
"  Look  here,"  he  said,  slowly,  "  I  ought  to  have  thought — 
Of  course  I'll  go  right  away  and  never  come  near  you 
again.  I  might  have  known  you  wouldn't  want  a  fellow 
that  stole.  I'll  go,  Hannah,  and  I  won't  say  another  word." 

He  rose,  and  was  half-way  to  the  door  when  he  turned. 
"  Good-by,"  he  said. 

"  Don't,  don't !  oh,  don't !  George,  you  don't  know  !  It's 
dreadful !  I've  got  to  tell  you  !" 

Hannah  was  beside  him,  clinging  to  his  arm.  All  her 
composure  was  gone.  Her  voice  rose  into  a  shrill  clamor. 

"  George,  George  !  Oh,  what  shall  I  do  !  what  shall  I 

" Hannah,  you'll  kill  yourself!     You  mustn't  1" 

"  I  can't  help  it !  It  isn't  you  !  it  isn't  you  !  It  was  right 
for  you  to  take  it.  But  it's  me !  it's  me !  Oh,  what  shall  I 

"  Hannah,  are  you  crazy  ?" 

"  No ;  but  it's  all  over.  It  wasn't  true  before,  but  it  is 

"  What  do  you  mean  ?" 

"  I  stole.     I  did,  George,  I  did !" 

"  When  ?  You  didn't  either.  You've  been  dwelling  on 
this  till  you  don't  know  what  you  have  done." 

"  Yes,  I  do.     I  stole.     I  did  !" 

"What  did  you  steal?" 

"A  loaf  of  bread." 

"  Hannah  !" 

"  Martha  didn't  have  anything  for  supper.  Oh,  what  shall 
I  do?" 


"  Hannah  Redman,  you  don't  mean  it's  come  to  this?" 

"  They  wouldn't  give  me  any  work  ;  they  couldn't  trust 
me,  you  know,  because  I'd  stole.  I  never  have  given  up, 
but  now  I've  got  to." 

"  When — did  you  have  anything  to — eat  ?" 

"  Yesterday.     I  didn't  eat  any  of  that — bread." 

The  young  man  looked  at  her  a  moment,  then  he  led 
her  back  to  her  seat. 

"  See  here,  Hannah,  you  sit  here  a  minute  till  I  come 
back.  I  won't  be  gone  long." 

She  sat  down  weakly.  She  suddenly  felt  too  exhausted  to 
speak,  and  leaned  her  head  back  and  closed  her  eyes.  She 
hardly  knew  when  George  returned. 

Presently  he  came  to  her  with  a  glass  of  milk.  "  Here, 
drink  this,  dear,"  he  said. 

He  held  the  glass  while  she  drank.  In  the  midst  of  it 
she  stopped  and  looked  at  him  piteously. 

"  What  is  it,  dear  ?" 

"  Have  you  been  down  to  the  store  ?" 

"  Yes." 

"  Do  they  know  ?     Have  they  found  it  out  yet  ?" 

His  tender  face  grew  stern.  "  No,  they  hadn't.  Don't 
you  think  of  that  again.  I've  paid  them  for  the  bread." 

"But  they  ought  to  know  I— stole  it." 

"No,  you  didn't.  Hannah,  never  think  of  this  again. 
They're  paid." 

"  Did  you  tell  them— I  took  it  ?" 

"  Yes,  I  told  them — all  that  was  necessary.  Hannah, 
dear,  don't  ever  speak  of  this  again,  or  think  of  it.  Finish 
your  milk  now  •  then  I  want  you  to  eat  some  cakes  I've  got 
for  you.  Oh,  you  poor  girl  ;  it  seems  to  me  I  can't  live 
through  this  myself.  Here  I've  had  plenty  to  eat,  and  you—" 


A  week  from  the  next  Sunday  Hannah  wore  a  white  dress 
to  the  meeting.  It  was  an  old  muslin,  but  she  had  washed 
and  ironed  it  nicely,  and  sewed  some  lace  in  the  neck  and 
sleeves.  She  had  trimmed  her  straw  bonnet  with  white  rib 
bons.  Everybody  stared  when  she  came  up  the  aisle. 
George  Arnold  entered  at  the  same  time  and  seated  him 
self  beside  her  in  her  pew.  The  women  rustled  and  whis 
pered.  John  Arnold  was  not  present  to-day.  The  old 
grandfather  looked  across  at  his  empty  pew  uneasily. 

After  the  service,  the  minister,  an  itinerant  one — this 
poor  parish  had  no  settled  preacher — in  a  solemn  voice  re 
quested  the  congregation  to  be  seated.  Then  he  added — 
he  was  an  old  man,  with  a  certain  dull  impressiveness  of 
manner — "  You  are  requested  to  remain  a  moment.  One 
of  your  number,  a  young  man  whom  I  this  morning  joined 
in  the  bands  of  holy  wedlock,  has  something  which  he 
wishes  to  communicate  to  you." 

There  was  a  deathly  calm.  George  Arnold  arose.  He 
was  a  tall,  fair  man,  like  his  father.  His  yellow,  curled 
head  towered  up  bravely ;  the  light  from  the  pulpit  window 
settled  on  it.  He  was  very  pale.  "  I  wish  to  make  a  state 
ment  in  the  presence  of  this  congregation,"  he  said,  in  a 
loud,  clear  voice.  "The  lady  beside  me,  who  is  now  my 
wife,  has  been  accused  of  theft  from  my  father.  The  accu 
sation  was  a  false  one.  I  stole  the  money  myself.  She 
has  borne  what  she  has  had  to  bear  from  you  all  to  shield 

Before  he  had  quite  finished  Hannah  rose ;  she  caught 
hold  of  his  arm  and  leaned  her  cheek  against  it  before  them 
all.  They  sat  down  side  by  side,  and  waited  while  the  con 
gregation  went  out.  A  carriage  stood  before  the  church. 
The  bridal  couple  were  to  leave  town  that  day.  A  few 


stood  staring  at  a  distance  as  George  Arnold  assisted  his 
bride  into  the  carriage  after  the  crowd  had  dispersed. 

They  drove  straight  to  Hannah's  house.  There  was  an 
old  figure  waiting  at  the  gate.  Beside  her  stood  a  great 
pot  of  calla-lilies. 

"  You  jest  lift  in  them  lilies  first,  afore  I  git  in,"  said  she, 
"  an'  be  real  keerful  you  don't  break  'em.  The  stalks  is  ten 


A  LONG  row  of  little  cheap  houses  stretched  on  each  side 
of  the  narrow,  dusty  street.  There  was  not  a  tree  in  the 
whole  length  of  it  except  in  front  of  David  May's  house. 
A  slim  young  maple,  carefully  boxed  in  around  the  trunk, 
stood  close  to  his  gate. 

These  poor  little  houses  were  all  alike ;  they  had  been 
built  expressly  for  the  operatives  in  the  Saunders  Cotton 
Mills.  There  was  a  little  square  of  ground  fenced  in  before 
each  cottage.  Some  were  miniature  vegetable  gardens. 
Araminta  May,  David's  wife,  had  hers  all  planted  with 
flowers.  They  were  coarse  and  gaudy,  rather  than  delicate ; 
her  taste  ran  that  way.  The  flower  garden  was  divided  into 
little  fantastic  beds  edged  with  cobble-stones,  and  the  nar 
row  footpath  leading  through  the  midst  of  it  to  the  door 
had  on  each  side  a  fence  of  bent  willow  boughs. 

Some  morning-glory  vines  were  climbing  up  on  strings 
towards  the  two  front  windows ;  Araminta's  great  ambition 
was  to  have  them  thickly  screened. 

"  Folks  can't  look  in  an'  see  us  eat  then,"  she  said. 

They  could  now.  Passers-by  might  look  directly  in  on 
the  little  table  set  between  the  windows  for  tea.  The  six- 
o'clock  whistle  had  blown,  and  the  men  and  girls  were  com 
ing  home  from  the  shops.  They  straggled  along,  the  men 


in  their  calico  shirt-sleeves,  the  girls  in  their  soiled  dresses, 
turning  into  this  yard  and  that  with  an  air  of  content. 

Araminta  had  worked  in  the  shop,  too,  before  she  was 
married.  Afterwards,  David  would  not  let  her.  "  His  wife 
might  do  his  washing  and  ironing  and  cooking,"  he  said, 
"  but  she  should  not  work  for  other  people  as  long  as  he 
had  his  two  hands." 

Every  cent  that  he  could  spare  went  to  "  rig  Minty  up," 
as  he  put  it.  He  could  not  bear  to  see  her  in  a  poor  gown  ; 
she  dressed  as  punctiliously  as  if  she  had  been  a  fine  lady 
"  against  Davy  comes  home." 

She  had  not  a  fine  taste,  and  admired  the  cheaply  gor 
geous.  To-night  she  had  on  a  flimsy  blue  muslin  with  a 
good  many  flowers,  and  a  deal  of  wide  cotton  lace.  She 
was  a  handsome  young  woman.  She  had  a  long  face,  with 
full  red  lips  and  an  exquisite  florid  complexion.  She  flushed 
pink  easily  from  forehead  to  throat,  but  the  pink  was  as  fine 
as  a  rose's.  She  had  flaxen  hair,  which  she  parted  and 
combed  straight  back. 

Araminta's  father  had  been  a  country  minister  on  a  piti 
ful  salary.  Her  mother  had  died  first,  and  then  her  father 
in  his  little  parish,  when  she  was  but  a  child.  Since  then 
she  had  shifted  as  best  she  could.  She  had  lived  around 
in  various  families,  partly  dependent,  partly  working  her 
way,  until  she  was  eighteen.  Then  she  came  to  Saunders- 
ville  to  work  in  the  mills,  and  there  she  met  David  May, 
and  was  married  to  him. 

Araminta  had  not  wholly  escaped  the  suspicions  liable 
to  attach  themselves  to  a  handsome  unprotected  girl  in 
a  humble  position.  People  had  said  she  was  a  pretty 
wild  kind  of  a  girl,  with  a  meaning  look,  before  she  was 


She  had  watched  for  David  anxiously  to-night.  She  had 
a  little  extra  tea — a  pie  and  some  hot  biscuits. 

"  I'm  awful  glad  you've  come,"  she  said,  when  the  stout, 
curly-headed  young  fellow  loomed  up  in  the  doorway. 
"  The  biscuits  are  all  gettin'  cold.  What  made  you  so  late  j 
it  ain't  pay-night  ?" 

"  No,"  said  David,  "  it's  turnin'-off  night." 

"  Now,  David  May,  what  do  you  mean  ?" 

"Just  what  I  say.  It's  turnin'-off  night.  I've  got  turned 

He  dropped  down  on  a  chair  with  that  and  rested  his 
elbows  on  his  knees  and  held  his  head  in  his  two  hands — 
the  attitude  most  indicative  of  a  person's  sympathy  with  his 
own  tired  soul. 

"  Now,  Davy,  honest  an*  true,  ain't  you  jokin'  ?" 

"  No,  I  ain't  jokin'.  Wish  to  the  Lord  I  was,  for  your 
sake !" 

"  But  what  have  you  got  turned  off  fur,  Davy  ?  I  declare, 
I'm  all  upset.  They  ain't  out  of  work,  are  they  ?" 

"  No ;  there's  work  enough.  It's  some  of  that  Lem 
Wheelock's  doin's.  If  any  feller  but  him  had  been  fore 
man,  I'd  ha'  kept  my  place.  He's  always  had  a  spite 
again'  me,  and  I'll  be  hanged  if  I  know  why." 

"What  did  they  say  was  the  reason  they  turned  you 

"  Didn't  give  me  no  reason.  The  boss  jest  called  me 
into  his  office,  an'  told  me  they  wouldn't  need  my  services  no 
more,  an'  paid  me  what  was  owin'  me,  an'  that  was  jest  ten 
dollars.  I  tried  to  talk,  but  he  kep'  on  writin'  in  a  book  an' 
didn't  seem  to  hear  me,  an'  I  quit  when  I  found  out  I  might 
jest  as  well  be  talkin'  to  a  stone  wall.  I  dunno  what  Whee 
lock's  been  tellin'  him,  and  I  don't  care.  Ef  he  wants  me 


to  go,  I'll  go.    I  ain't  goin'  to  whine,  and  tease  him  fur  work. 
I've  got  a  little  feelin',  ef  I  ain't  one  of  the  upper  crust !" 

"That's  so,  Davy.     I'd  see  him  Down  East  first." 

"  The  worst  of  it  is,  Minty,  I  dunno  how  we're  going  to 
live,  or  where  I'll  get  work.  It's  mighty  dull  times  now. 
It's  a  mean  kind  of  a  box  I've  got  you  into." 

"  Now,  don't  you  go  to  talkin'  like  that,  David  May !  I 
don't  want  to  hear  it.  Git  up  an'  wash  you  now,  and  eat 
your  supper ;  the  biscuits  are  all  gettin'  cold." 

The  poor  fellow  got  up,  threw  his  arms  around  his  wife's 
waist,  and  leaned  his  head  on  his  wife's  shoulder.  She  was 
as  tall  as  he. 

"  Oh,  Minty,  I  didn't  know  but  you'd  be  fur  goin'  back 
on  me,  an'  blamin'  me, 'cause  I'd  hed  such  bad  luck.  Some 
women  do." 

"  I  ain't  some  women  then ;  but  I  will  be,  if  you  go  to 
suspectin'  me  of  such  a  thing  again,  an'  if  you  don't  hurry 
and  wash,  an'  eat  them  biscuits  before  they  git  cold — " 

"  Well,  mebbe  we  can  weather  it.  I  guess  I  can  find 
some  work  pretty  soon,  an'  you'll  have  enough  to  eat  and 
wear.  I  guess  we  shall  git  along." 

"I'd  laugh  if  we  couldn't." 

A  little  later  people  passing  by  could  look  in  and  see  the 
two  at  supper  just  as  usual,  David's  calico  shirt-sleeves  at 
one  end  of  the  little  white-covered  table  plying  vigorously, 
and  Minty's  blue-draped  arms  at  the  other. 

After  tea  they  were  standing  out  in  the  yard,  when  Minty 
caught  a  glimpse  of  Lemuel  Wheelock,  the  foreman,  coming. 
She  was  standing  close  to  her  husband,  clinging  to  his  arm, 
when  he  got  up  in  front  of  the  house  ;  just  when  he  had 
his  eyes  fixed  full  on  her  she  even  leaned  her  head  against 
David's  shoulder.  She  knew  why  she  did,  though  her  hus- 


band  did  not ;  she  knew  also  why  this  foreman  nad  turned 
him  off,  and  this  was  her  method  of  stabbing  him  for  it. 

It  was  effectual,  too.  Lemuel  Wheelock,  who  was  a  hand 
some  young  man,  with  a  thin  black  beard,  who  threw  his 
shoulders  well  back  when  he  walked,  turned  pale,  gave  a 
stiff  nod,  and  went  by  quickly. 

"  Confound  him !"  growled  David.  Minty  said  nothing 
for  a  minute — then  she  went  on  with  the  talk  which  he  had 

They  formed  a  plan  for  the  future  which  they  set  at  once 
to  carrying  out. 

Three  days  later,  early  in  the  morning,  before  any  of  the 
neighbors  were  up,  Minty  and  David  started  forth  on  a 
hundred-mile  tramp. 

Coming  through  her  little  dewy  garden,  Minty  stopped 
and  picked  an  enormous  bouquet  of  zinnias  and  marigolds 
and  balsams.  Then  she  swiftly  pulled  up  the  finest  of  the 
others  by  their  roots. 

"  There,"  she  said,  "  the  new  folks  sha'n't  have  my  flow 
ers!  They  sha'n't!" 

"  Why,  Minty  !"  cried  David,  aghast. 

"  I  don't  care.  I'd  pull  up  that  maple-tree  if  I  could, 
and  you'd  carry  it." 

"I'd  look  kinder  queer  startin'  out  on  a  hundred-mile 
tramp  with  a  maple-tree  over  my  shoulder,"  said  David  with 
a  chuckle. 

Minty  could  not  help  laughing.  Besides  her  basket  of 
flowers  she  carried  a  basket  with  some  eatables  in  it.  In 
the  pocket  of  her  blue  dress  were  her  chief  treasures — her 
little  stock  of  cheap  jewelry  and  her  two  keepsakes  which 
she  had  for  remembrances  of  her  father  and  mother.  These 
last  were  a  Greek  Testament  and  a  tiny  pincushion  made 


of  a  bit  of  her  mother's  wedding-dress.  Of  course  she  could 
not  read  a  word  of  the  Greek  Testament,  but  she  kept  it 
lovingly.  She  called  it  "father's  book." 

David  carried  the  few  clothes  which  they  could  not  do  with 
out  in  a  carpet-bag.  He  had  about  ten  dollars  in  money. 
He  had  tried  to  persuade  Minty  to  use  it  to  defray  her  ex 
penses  by  rail,  while  he  made  the  journey  on  foot,  alone,  but 
she  would  not  hear  to  it.  White  River,  the  town  where  they 
hoped  to  find  work,  was  a  hundred  miles  distant ;  if  not 
successful  there,  they  would  go  fifty  miles  farther  to  Water- 
bury,  and  they  must  save  their  little  stock  of  money  for 
food.  She  laughed  at  the  idea  of  the  journey's  hurting  her; 
it  would  be  fun,  she  said. 

They  got  out  of  the  village  into  the  woody  road  before 
any  one  was  astir.  Saundersville  was  a  tiny  rural  manu 
facturing  town,  skirted  very  closely  by  forests.  It  was  a 
cool  morning,  though  it  was  midsummer ;  they  went  along 
the  dark,  dewy  road  gayly  enough.  They  were  not  half  as 
sad  as  they  had  thought  they  would  be.  Now  they  were 
fairly  on  the  mountain  of  their  affliction,  they  found  out 
there  were  flowers  on  it. 

They  were  young  and  strong,  and  walking  was  a  pleas 
ure.  It  was  enough  sight  better  than  being  cooped  up  in 
the  shop,  David  said,  looking  ahead  between  the  green, 
dewy  boughs.  And  Minty  said  she  was  glad  not  to  be  in 
the  house  washing  dishes  such  a  splendid  morning. 

She  even  began  to  sing  as  they  went  along,  a  Sunday- 
school  tune.  The  Saundersville  folk  sang  that  kind  of 
music  principally.  Mr.  Saunders  kept  a  little  church  and 
Sunday-school  running  vigorously  in  his  domain.  David 
would  not  sing,  but  he  listened  to  his  wife  sympathizingly. 
She  had  a  strong  soprano  voice,  and  was  not  afraid  to  let  it  out. 


They  walked  about  twenty  miles  that  day.  They  ate 
their  dinner  and  supper  from  their  basket  by  the  roadside, 
and  slept  that  night  in  an  isolated  barn,  on  a  pile  of  fresh  hay. 

The  next  morning  they  were  a  little  tired  and  stiff,  but 
they  were  too  young  and  healthy  to  mind  it  much,  and  they 
rose  and  went  on. 

That  day  they  stopped  in  a  village  on  their  way  and 
spent,  cautiously,  a  portion  of  their  ten  dollars  for  food — 
bread  and  crackers.  They  could  pick  plenty  of  black 
berries  to  eat  with  them  along  the  road. 

So  they  kept  on.  When  they  reached  White  River  David 
could  find  no  work  there ;  the  shops  were  full.  There  was 
nothing  to  do  but  go  farther,  to  Waterbury.  So  far  their 
courage  had  not  failed  them,  but  when  they  reached  Water- 
bury  and  found  no  work  there,  they  did  not  dare  to  look 
each  other  in  the  face. 

They  sat  down  disconsolately  to  rest  on  a  stone  wall  on 
the  edge  of  a  pasture,  a  little  out  of  the  village.  It  was 
getting  late  in  the  afternoon. 

«  We've  got  to  find  some  place  or  other  to  stay  to-night," 
said  David,  moodily. 

Minty  said  nothing.  She  sat  staring  straight  ahead. 
There  were  dark  hollows  under  her  eyes. 

They  rose  wearily  after  a  little  while,  and  kept  on.  They 
hoped  to  find  a  barn  somewhere  which  would  shelter  them 
for  the  night.  But  they  walked  some  miles  farther  along 
the  country  road  without  finding  any  kind  of  a  building  by 
the  way. 

At  last,  about  sunset,  they  reached  a  cleared  space  and  a 
house  on  the  east  side  of  the  road.  No  one  lived  in  it ; 
there  was  no  mistaking  that.  Its  desolateness  looked  out 
of  its  windows  as  plainly  as  faces.  Where  the  glass  in  the 


front  windows  was  not  broken  out,  it  reflected  the  sunset  in 
blotches  of  red  and  gold. 

It  was  a  large  square  building ;  it  had  never  been  painted, 
and  the  walls  as  well  as  the  roof  were  shingled.  The  shin 
gles  were  scaling  off  now,  and  a  great  many  of  them  had  a 
green  film  of  moss  on  them.  The  front  door  stood  open 
with  a  dreary  show  of  hospitality. 

Minty  looked  in  wistfully,  when  she  and  David  stood  on 
the  old  door-stone. 

"  S'pose  we  had  some  folks  in  there  waitin'  for  us,  an' 
supper  was  ready,"  said  she. 

"  Be  pretty  nice,  wouldn't  it,  darlin'  ?" 

"  S'pose  there  were  curtains  to  the  windows,  an'  there  was 
a  bed  made  up  white  and  clean — but  there  ain't  no  use 
talkin'  this  way.  It  kinder  come  over  me,  that's  all." 

Minty  went  in  then,  laughing.  She  and  David  explored 
the  old  house,  going  through  all  the  dingy,  echoing  rooms. 
There  was  not  much  in  them  but  old  rubbish.  There 
was  a  great  barn,  which  had  once  sheltered  many  head  of 
cattle,  adjoining  the  house.  Minty  and  David  found  a  few 
old  rusty  tools  in  there,  a  heap  of  hay  on  one  of  the  dusty 
scaffolds,  and  the  very  phantom  of  an  old  sulky.  There  it 
stood,  tottering  on  its  two  half-spokeless  wheels,  which  had 
borne  it  over  so  many  of  the  steep  New  England  hill-roads 
in  its  day.  Its  seat  was  gone ;  its  covering  hung  in  ribbons ;  it 
looked  as  if  it  would  crumble  to  dust  in  a  moment,  if  drawn 
out  of  its  stall,  like  an  old  skeleton  if  lifted  out  of  its  coffin. 

"  My,  what  an  awful  lookin'  old  carriage, "said  Minty,  peer 
ing  at  it. 

"  Guess  I'd  better  hitch  up,  an'  we'll  go  to  ride,"  said 
David,  and  they  both  laughed  merrily  at  the  poor  joke. 

Back  of  the  house  had  stretched  the  vegetable  garden 


and  apple  orchards.  A  great  sweet  apple-tree  stood  close 
to  the  kitchen  door ;  some  of  its  branches  brushed  the  roof. 
The  tree  had  deteriorated  like  the  house;  some  of  its  limbs 
were  dead,  and  its  apples  were  not  the  fair,  large  things 
that  they  had  been.  They  were  small  and  knotty.  Still 
they  were  eatable,  and  they  were  just  ripe  now.  The  short 
grass  back  of  the  house  was  covered  with  them.  The  for 
lorn  young  couple  gathered  up  some,  and  carried  them  into 
one  of  the  front  rooms.  They  sat  down  on  a  heap  of  hay, 
which  David  had  brought  in  from  the  barn,  and  supped  off 
sweet  apples  and  crackers. 

Before  Minty  began  to  eat  she  pulled  her  father's  book 
and  her  mother's  pincushion  out  of  her  pocket  and  laid 
them  down  beside  her.  She  looked  at  David  and  laughed, 
and  flushed  pink  as  she  did  so. 

"  What  on  earth  are  you  doin'  that  fur,  Minty  ?" 

She  flushed  pinker.  "Oh,  dear,  I  don't  know;  I  jest 
took  a  notion — I  felt  kinder  lonesome.  I  declare,  Davy,  I 
wish  to  gracious  that  I  had  some  folks  or  you  had.  They'd 
be  mighty  handy  jest  now." 

"  That's  so,"  said  David  slowly.  He  stopped  eating,  and 
his  face  took  on  a  pitiful  expression.  "  Oh,  Minty,  I  did  an 
awful  mean  thing  marry  in'  you ;  an'  you  a  minister's  daugh 
ter,  and  so  good-lookin'.  You'd  never  been  where  you  are 
if  it  hadn't  been  for  me." 

"  David  May,  you  jest  quit." 

"  I  wasn't  half  good  enough  for  you — " 

Minty  faced  him  passionately ;  she  was  very  white. 
"  Now,  David  May,  you  were  good  enough  for  me,  once  fur 
all,  don't  you  forget.  You  were  good  enough  fur  me  I  You 
were  good  enough,  I'm  tellin'  you  the  truth,  you  were ! 
Don't  you  dare  to  say  you  wa'n't  again !" 


"  Why,  Minty,  don't  look  at  me  so,  darlin',  cause  I  won't 
if  you  feel  like  that ;  but  I  can't  help  thinkin' — " 

"  Don't  you  think  it !     I'll  leave  you  if  you  think  it !" 

"  Well,  I  won't  think  it.  Why,  Minty !"  She  fairly  fright 
ened  him  ;  he  did  not  know  what  to  think  of  her.  But  she 
began  to  eat,  and  was  talking  of  something  else  with  her  old 
manner  in  a  minute,  and  he  thought  no  more  about  it. 

There  never  was  the  least  danger  of  David  May's  know 
ing  anything  which  other  people  did  not  want  him  to  know. 
There  was  nothing  of  the  detective  element  in  him.  The 
motives  underlying  people's  actions  were  to  him  as  the  geo 
logical  strata  beneath  the  surface  of  the  earth.  He  simply 
went  along  through  life  looking  at  the  snow*  or  the  flowers 
which  happened  to  be  in  sight,  and  thinking  nothing  about 
the  fire  or  the  gold  underneath  them. 

That  night  they  used  their  heap  of  hay  for  a  bed ;  they 
slept  soundly  on  it,  too.  The  next  morning  they  ate  more 
sweet  apples  and  crackers ;  then  David  started  for  Bassets, 
a  little  town  three  miles  distant,  in  search  of  work.  A  man 
in  Waterbury  had  told  him  that  there  was  a  tub  factory  in 
Bassets,  and  he  thought  of  it  now  as  a  forlorn  hope. 

Minty  did  not  go  with  him.  He  came  back  about  noon, 
bringing  some  eggs  and  a  pound  or  so  of  salt  pork,  bought 
with  his  scanty  remaining  store  of  money,  but  his  full,  young 
face  looked  leaden. 

No  work  in  Bassets. 

Minty  tried  to  cheer  him.  She  kindled  a  fire  in  the  wide 
old  fireplace  in  the  kitchen  ;  she  scoured  an  old  frying-pan 
which  she  had  found  in  the  attic,  and  fried  pork  and  eggs 
for  dinner. 

But  David  could  not  eat  much.  His  simple  heart  had 
taken  to  desparing  more  entirely  from  its  very  simplicity. 


He  had  very  little  imagination,  and  consequently  little  hope, 
to  which  he  could  resort.  He  sat  with  his  head  in  his  hands 
the  rest  of  the  day.  Minty  scolded  and  vexed,  but  she 
could  not  rouse  him. 

Discouragement  had  developed  an  obstinacy  in  him  of 
which  he  had  never  before  seemed  capable. 

The  next  morning  he  was  sick — chilly  and  feverish — and 
could  not  get  up.  His  pitiful,  helpless  look  at  Minty  was 
hard  to  be  seen. 

"  Oh,  Minty,  I'm  sick  ;  I  can't  get  up.  What  will  you 

"  I'll  do  well  enough ;  just  you  lay  still  and  not  worry. 
You'll  be  better  by  noon." 

But  he  was  not.  Minty  brewed  for  him  a  tea  of  green 
peppermint  leaves  which  she  found  near  the  house  ;  covered 
him  up  warm  to  induce  perspiration,  and  did  everything 
that  she  could,  yet  without  much  effect. 

As  the  day  passed  he  grew  no  better.  He  did  not  seem 
violently  or  alarmingly  ill,  but  the  fever  did  not  leave  him, 
and  he  steadily  lost  strength  and  flesh.  Their  pitiable 
destitution  pressed  them  harder  and  harder.  They  would 
have  been  reduced  to  a  choice  between  beggary  and  starva 
tion  if  Minty  had  not  found  a  way  out  of  the  difficulty.  She 
took  it,  right  or  wrong.  She  felt  at  the  time  very  few  scru 
ples  about  the  matter ;  she  did  later,  but  she  would  have 
done  the  same  thing  again,  probably,  under  the  same  cir 

Two  or  three  broad  meadows  away  from  the  old  house 
there  were  several  cows  pastured.  They  belonged  to  some 
farmer.  Minty  went  there  every  night  before  the  cows  went 
home,  and  milked  them  one  and  another.  She  used  an  old 
earthen  jar  of  a  graceful  shape,  which  she  had  found,  for  a 


milking-pail.  She  strode  home  with  it  like  a  guilty  thing, 
across  the  fields.  She  brushed  through  the  sweet  fern, 
knee  deep,  with  the  tall  jar  half-poised  on  her  right  hip, 
carrying  her  strong,  beautiful  figure  like  an  Eastern  woman. 

Minty  kept  thinking  every  day  that  the  next  day  she 
must  call  on  some  one  for  assistance,  have  a  doctor.  But 
when  the  next  day  came  David  would  think  that  he  felt  a 
little  better,  perhaps,  and  she  would  put  it  off.  She  had  a 
fierce  dislike  of  asking  for  charity.  She  thought  it  would 
be  equivalent  to  knocking  at  an  almshouse  door,  as  it 
probably  would  have  been.  She  kept  all  signs  of  the  habi 
tation  of  the  old  home  resolutely  from  the  few  passers-by. 

She  never  looked  out  of  a  window  without  due  caution. 
Her  greatest  terror  was  that  she  should  be  caught  stealing 
the  milk.  She  used  so  much  art  in  milking  from  one  cow 
and  another,  that  she  hardly  thought  the  diminution  in 
quantity  would  betray  her,  for  a  while  anyway.  But  she 
started  at  every  sound  on  her  way  to  and  from  the  pasture. 

She  did  not  tell  David  how  she  got  the  milk.  She 
laughed  when  he  asked  her,  and  said  it  was  all  right,  it  was 
a  secret ;  when  he  got  well  he  should  know.  He  was  easily 
enough  put  off;  he  did  not  trouble  himself  much  over  that 
or  anything  else  before  long.  He  grew  weaker  and  weaker. 
Finally  one  day  he  lay  most  of  the  time  muttering  in  a  half- 
delirium.  He  would  not  move  himself  much  unless  Minty 
left  him  for  a  moment.  Then  he  would  call  after  her, 
"  Minty,  Minty,  Minty,"  every  second  until  she  came  back. 

Returning  from  her  milking  expedition,  she  could  hear 
him  before  she  reached  the  house.  His  greatest  fear  seemed 
to  be  that  she  would  leave  him. 

"  You  won't  go  off  and  leave  me,  will  you,  Minty  ?"  he 
would  say. 


"  Leave  you  ?    Oh,  Davy,  I  guess  I  won't." 

He  asked  her  that  question  over  and  over.  Her  assur 
ances  only  satisfied  him  for  the  moment.  The  delirious 
fear  kept  springing  up  again  in  his  weak  brain. 

The  next  morning  Minty  watched  the  pale  light  coming 
in  at  the  windows  with  a  new  resolution.  "  Somethin'  has 
got  to  be  done  to-day,"  she  whispered  to  herself.  "  Some- 
thin'  shall  be  done." 

After  the  sun  was  up  she  tried  to  talk  with  David,  and  he 
seemed  to  rouse.  She  sat  down  on  the  floor  beside  him, 
and  took  his  head  in  her  lap,  bending  down  and  leaning 
her  cheek  against  it. 

"  Davy,  dear,  I've  got  somethin'  to  tell  you,  an'  I  want 
you  to  listen  jest  a  minute — " 

"  Oh,  Minty,  don't  you  leave  me !  Don't  you  go  an'  leave 

"  No ;  I  won't — I  ain't  goin'  to,  Davy.  Leastways  not  fur 
more'n  two  or  three  minutes.  See  here,  Davy,  darlin',  I've  got 
to  go  and  git  a  doctor  to  come  and  see  you.  I've  got  to  go  jest  up 
here  to  Bassets,  you  know,  and  I  needn't  have  to  be  gone — " 

"  Oh,  Minty  !     Don't  leave  me  ;  don't,  don't,  don't !" 

"  Oh,  jest  for  two  or  three  minutes ;  won't  you  let  me, 
dear  ?  I  want  to  get  the  doctor,  so  he  can  give  you  some 
medicine  to  get  you  well.  Don't  you  know,  Davy  ? 

"  Oh,  Minty,  don't  leave  me !  Oh,  Minty,  darlin',  don't 
leave  me;  don't,  don't,  don't !" 

She  reasoned  with  him,  and  coaxed  him  for  a  long  time, 
but  it  was  of  no  use.  All  she  could  get  in  return  was  that 
one  despairing  cry,  "  Don't  leave  me  !" 

Finally  she  gave  it  up,  and  sat  looking  straight  ahead,  her 
beautiful  face  held  rigid  with  thought.  "  There's  somethin' 
got  to  be  done,"  she  muttered. 


After  a  little  she  rose.  He  clutched  at  her  dress  and  set 
up  his  pitiful  cry  again. 

"  There,  there,  dear,  I  ain't  goin'.  I  ain't  goin'  to  Bas 
sets.  I'm  jest  goin'  to  step  out  of  the  room  a  second.  I'll 
leave  the  door  open." 

She  ran  out  of  the  house  to  the  barn ;  his  cry  followed 
her.  There  stood  the  old  sulky  which  she  and  David  had 
laughed  at  on  the  night  of  their  arrival.  She  took  hold  of 
the  shafts  and  pulled  it  out  through  the  wide  doors  into  the 
green  yard.  It  was  light,  and  she  did  it  easily  enough. 
She  was  very  strong. 

"  I  can  do  it,"  she  said,  with  a  nod  of  her  head. 

She  dragged  the  sulky  along  into  the  road  and  stopped 
close  to  the  front  door. 

Then  she  ran  in,  laughing.  "  Come,  Davy,  darlin',  you're 
goin'  to  ride !  The  carriage  is  ready." 

"  Oh,  Minty,  don't  leave  me." 

"  Course  I  ain't  goin'  to  leave  you.  I'm  goin'  with  you. 
Don't  you  worry  a  bit,  darlin'.  Jest  let  me  get  your  clothes 
on,  an'  you'll  have  a  beautiful  ride." 

She  got  the  poor  fellow  into  his  clothes,  talking  merrily 
to  him  all  the  time.  Then  she  helped  him  out  of  the  house 
and  into  the  sulky.  She  had  fixed  up  a  bed  of  hay  in  it, 
and  she  covered  him  with  her  shawl. 

He  was  so  exhausted,  and  near  fainting,  that  at  first  he 
hardly  noticed  anything.  When  she  placed  herself  between 
the  shafts,  and  began  dragging  him  slowly  out  of  the  yard, 
however,  he  set  up,  from  behind,  a  pitiful,  sobbing  cry  : 

"  Oh,  Minty,  you  ain't  a  draggin'  me  !  Let  me  git  out. 
I  won't  have  it !  Oh,  Minty,  I  ain't  come  to  this !  Minty, 
stop — you  must  stop.  Don't  you  hear  me  ?" 

She  turned  around  and  looked  at  him.     "David  May, 


you  jest  keep  still.  You  don't  weigh  no  more'n  a  feather  ; 
it  ain't  nothin'.  I'm  only  goin'  to  take  you  up  to  Bassets  to 
see  the  doctor." 

"  Minty,  stop  !" 

"  Look  here,  Davy — if  you  don't  lay  back  an'  keep  still, 
I'll— leave  you." 

He  did  lie  back  at  that  and  said  no  more.  Indeed,  he 
was  too  weak  to  prolong  the  struggle.  The  momentary 
strength  which  the  sight  of  Minty  in  the  shafts  had  given 
him  died  away.  Minty  pressed  along.  Her  pretty  face 
was  a  deep  pink  all  over ;  the  perspiration  rolled  down  her 
cheeks  ;  her  fair  hair  clung  to  her  temples.  It  was  a  warm 
day.  The  flowering  bushes  which  bordered  the  road  were 
swarming  with  bees,  and  the  air  was  full  of  those  rasping  and 
humming  sounds  which  seem  to  be  the  very  voices  of  the  heat. 

It  was  three  miles  to  Bassets.  There  was  not  one  house 
all  the  way,  and  the  road  was  not  much  travelled.  Minty 
did  not  meet  any  one. 

After  a  little  David  seemed  asleep,  or  in  a  stupor.  He 
lay  very  still,  at  any  rate,  and  never  spoke.  Every  little 
while  Minty  looked  around  at  him  to  see  if  he  was  safe. 
When  she  did  so  her  face  was  wonderful  with  the  love  and 
strong  patience  shining  through  it.  Those  days  of  watch 
ing  over  this  honest,  distressed  soul,  whose  love  for  her  was 
so  unquestioning,  had  caused  all  the  good  elements  in  her 
nature  to  work  out  a  change  in  it.  This  was  Minty's  true 
flower  time.  Everything  worthy  in  her  was  awake  and  astir 
and  glowing.  She,  dragging  her  sick  husband  over  the 
rough  country  road,  like  a  beast  of  burden,  was  as  perfect  a 
woman  as  she  ever  would  be  in  this  world.  She  seemed  to 
rise  triumphant  by  this  noble  abasement  from  any  lower 
level  where  she  might  have  been. 


She  hastened  along  as  fast  as  she  was  able.  She  was 
not  conscious  of  any  great  fatigue,  though  occasionally  she 
stopped  to  rest  a  moment. 

She  reached  Bassets  about  noon.  She  drew  the  sulky 
into  the  yard  of  a  large  white  house,  the  first  which  she 
came  to,  and  knocked  on  the  door. 

"  Can  you — tell  me — where — the  doctor  lives  ?"  she  asked 
the  man  who  opened  it. 

She  was  leaning  against  the  house,  panting ;  her  face  was 
almost  purple. 

The  man  stood  staring.  He  was  old  and  large,  with  a 
sunburnt  face  and  white  hair. 

"  What  in  creation,"  said  he  at  last,  "  does  this  mean  ? 
Who  air  ye,  anyway  ?  What  ails  him  T '  pointing  at  David 
lying  back  with  deathly  face,  in  the  sulky. 

Minty  told  him  their  pitiful  little  story  in  a  few  panting 
words.  Then  she  asked  again  where  the  doctor  lived. 
She  felt  almost  as  if  her  strength  were  failing  her,  now  that 
the  struggle  was  so  far  over. 

"  You  don't  mean  to  say,"  said  the  man, "  that  you  dragged 
that  sulky  all  the  way  here?  It's  a  good  three  miles." 

"Yes;  it  wa'n't  much." 

"  Good  Lord !     Mother,  come  here !" 

His  wife  and  daughter,  who  had  been  peeping,  came  then 
to  the  door  with  wondering  faces. 

"Just  look  here,  mother !  This  young  woman's  come  all 
the  way  from  the  old  Shaw  house  down  below  here.  Dragged 
her  sick  husband  in  that 'ere  sulky  to  see  the  doctor,  she  says." 

"  Won't  you  please  tell  me  where  the  doctor  lives  ?"  asked 
poor  Minty. 

"  What's  your  name  ?"  questioned  the  old  woman. 



"  They've  come  over  a  hundred  mile,  lookin*  arter  work, 
she  says,"  the  man  went  on,  "  an'  he  got  sick,  and  they've 
been  livin'  down  there,  in  the  old  Shaw  house ;  an'  she 
wanted  to  get  the  doctor,  and  he  wouldn't  let  her  leave  him, 
so  she's  dragged  him  all  the  way  here  in  the  sulky." 

"Does  the  doctor  live  fur  from  here?"  asked  Minty, 

"  He's  asleep,  ain't  he  ?"  said  the  woman. 

"  I  guess  so — I  want  to  git  to  the  doctor's." 

"An'  you  dragged  him  all  the  way  yourself?" 


All  of  a  sudden  the  woman  stepped  forward  towards 
Minty,  and  away,  as  it  were,  from  her  New  England  suspi 
cion  and  curiosity. 

"  You  poor  thing,"  said  she,  with  the  tears  streaming 
down  her  sallow  cheeks,  and  her  wide,  thin  mouth  working, 
"  I  never  heerd  anythin'  like  it  in  my  life  !" 

"  You  come  right  in,  an'  we'll  get  him  in,  an'  then  Cyrus 
shall  go  fur  the  doctor.  Mary,  you  go  an'  git  the  bed  in  the 
spare  room  ready." 

The  daughter  went  in,  wiping  her  eyes.  She  was  thin 
and  sallow,  like  her  mother,  and  wore  a  black  calico  gown. 
Her  own  husband  was  dead,  and  she  had  come  here  to  live 
with  her  father  and  mother.  While  she  was  making  up  the 
bed  in  the  best  bedroom,  her  tears  dropped  down  on  the 
white  sheets. 

"  I  would  ha'  done  as  much  for  him  if  I'd  had  any  need 
to  whilst  he  was  alive,"  she  sobbed  to  herself. 

In  a  little  while  poor  David  May  was  lying  comfortable 
in  that  clean,  cool  bed.  Minty  was  resting ;  and  they  had 
sent  for  the  doctor.  He  was  a  skilful  man  for  a  country 
town,  and  he  did  his  best  for  David  for  his  wife's  sake. 


The  story  of  the  journey  in  the  sulky  spread  fast  through 
Bassets.  Whatever  there  was  of  sweet  romance,  what 
ever  there  was  of  sweet  human  pity  in  those  simple,  some 
what  contracted  country  folks,  was  awakened.  Poor,  pretty, 
faulty  Minty  dragging  the  sulky  with  her  sick  husband  in  it, 
three  miles  to  Bassets  in  the  heat  and  dust,  was  to  figure 
henceforth  as  the  heroine  of  one  of  the  unwritten  folk-lore 
songs  which  are  handed  down  from  mother  to  daughter. 

Everybody  was  kind  to  the  poor  young  couple.  When 
David  began  to  mend,  and  there  was  more  opportunity  for 
them,  there  was  no  end  to  the  kindly  services  which  were 

One  day,  when  they  had  been  there  about  five  weeks,  and 
David  was  decidedly  convalescent,  Mrs.  Marsh,  the  woman 
who  had  taken  them  in,  was  standing  at  her  door,  talking 
to  a  neighbor,  who  had  just  brought  over  some  custard  for 
the  sick  man. 

"  Yes,"  said  she,  "  he's  got  through  the  worst  on't  now,  ef 
he's  careful." 

"  You  are  goin'  to  keep  'em  a  while  longer  ?" 

"  Keep  'em  ?  I  guess  I  am  !  I'm  goin'  to  keep  'm  till 
he  gits  real  strong.  She's  the  gratefulest  thing  you  ever 
see,  an'  dretful  afraid  of  makin'  trouble.  She  keeps  sayin' 
she  guesses  he's  'most  well  enough  for  'em  to  be  startin'. 
But  I  tell  her,  no ;  you're  goin'  to  stay  jest  where  you  are 
till  he's  able  to  git  out." 

"  I  heard  Sampson  was  goin'  to  let  him  have  work  in  the 
tub  factory  soon's  he  gets  well." 

"  Yes ;  he  came  over  'bout  it.  If  they  wa'n't  tickled. 
They're  goin'  to  live  up-stairs  in  Mis'  Eaton's  house. 
They've  got  some  things  they  left  in  the  place  they  used  to 
live  in,  an'  they're  goin'  to  send  for  'em.  He  keeps  frettin' 


'cause  she  ain't  got  any  more  clothes  here.  He  seems  to 
think  a  sight  on  her ;  wants  her  to  have  everythin'  and  be 
dressed  up.  They  seem  jest  as  happy  as  the  day  is  long, 
now.  Hark,  there  she  is,  singin'." 

Minty's  voice  rang  out  from  the  best  bedroom,  clear  and 
sweet,  in  a  joyful  psalm  tune.  The  women  stood,  listening. 

"  I  declare,"  said  the  neighbor,  finally,  "  she's  got  a  pretty 
voice,  ain't  she  ?  All  I  kin  think  of  is  a  bluebird  singin', 
when  he  first  comes  back  in  the  spring." 


THE  garden-patch  at  the  right  of  the  house  was  all  a 
gay  spangle  with  sweet-peas  and  red-flowering  beans,  and 
flanked  with  feathery  asparagus.  A  woman  in  blue  was 
moving  about  there.  Another  woman,  in  a  black  bonnet, 
stood  at  the  front  door  of  the  house.  She  knocked  and 
waited.  She  could  not  see  from  where  she  stood  the  blue- 
clad  woman  in  the  garden.  The  house  was  very  close  to 
the  road,  from  which  a  tall  evergreen  hedge  separated  it, 
and  the  view  to  the  side  was  in  a  measure  cut  off. 

The  front  door  was  open ;  the  woman  had  to  reach  to 
knock  on  it,  as  it  swung  into  the  entry.  She  was  a  small 
woman  and  quite  young,  with  a  bright  alertness  about  her 
which  had  almost  the  effect  of  prettiness.  It  was  to  her 
what  greenness  and  crispness  are  to  a  plant.  She  poked 
her  little  face  forward,  and  her  sharp  pretty  eyes  took  in  the 
entry  and  a  room  at  the  left,  of  which  the  door  stood  open. 
The  entry  was  small  and  square  and  unfurnished,  except 
for  a  well-rubbed  old  card-table  against  the  back  wall.  The 
room  was  full  of  green  light  from  the  tall  hedge,  and  brist 
ling  with  grasses  and  flowers  and  asparagus  stalks. 

"Betsey,  you  there?"  called  the  woman.  When  she 
spoke,  a  yellow  canary,  whose  cage  hung  beside  the  front 
door,  began  to  chirp  and  twitter. 

A  POETESS.  !4, 

"Betsey,  you  there?"  the  woman  called  again.  The 
bird's  chirps  came  in  a  quick  volley ;  then  he  began  to  trill 
and  sing. 

"  She  ain't  there,"  said  the  woman.  She  turned  and  went 
out  of  the  yard  through  the  gap  in  the  hedge ;  then  she 
looked  around.  She  caught  sight  of  the  blue  figure  in  the 
garden.  "  There  she  is,"  said  she. 

She  went  around  the  house  to  the  garden.  She  wore  a 
gay  cashmere-patterned  calico  dress  with  her  mourning  bon 
net,  and  she  held  it  carefully  away  from  the  dewy  grass  and 

The  other  woman  did  not  notice  her  until  she  was  close 
to  her  and  said,  "  Good-mornin',  Betsey."  Then  she  start 
ed  and  turned  around. 

"Why,  Mis'  Caxton  !     That  you  ?"  said  she. 

"  Yes.  I've  been  standin'  at  your  door  for  the  last  half- 
hour.  I  was  jest  goin'  away  when  I  caught  sight  of  you 
out  here." 

In  spite  of  her  brisk  speech  her  manner  was  subdued. 
She  drew  down  the  corners  of  her  mouth  sadly. 

"  I  declare  I'm  dreadful  sorry  you  had  to  stan'  there  so 
long !"  said  the  other  woman. 

She  set  a  pan  partly  filled  with  beans  on  the  ground, 
wiped  her  hands,  which  were  damp  and  green  from  the  wet 
vines,  on  her  apron,  then  extended  her  right  one  with  a 
solemn  and  sympathetic  air. 

"  It  don't  make  much  odds,  Betsey,"  replied  Mrs.  Caxton. 
"  I  ain't  got  much  to  take  up  my  time  nowadays."  She 
sighed  heavily  as  she  shook  hands,  and  the  other  echoed  her. 

"We'll  go  right  in  now.  I'm  dreadful  sorry  you  stood 
there  so  long,"  said  Betsey. 

"  You'd  better  finish  pickin'  your  beans." 

I42  A   POETESS. 

"  No ;  I  wa'n't  goin'  to  pick  any  more.  I  was  jest  goiri 

"I  declare,  Betsey  Dole,  I  shouldn't  think  you'd  got 
enough  for  a  cat !"  said  Mrs.  Caxton,  eying  the  pan. 

"  I've  got  pretty  near  all  there  is.  I  guess  I've  got  more 
flowerin'  beans  than  eatin'  ones,  anyway." 

"  I  should  think  you  had,"  said  Mrs.  Caxton,  surveying 
the  row  of  bean-poles  topped  with  swarms  of  delicate  red 
flowers.  "  I  should  think  they  were  pretty  near  all  flowerin' 
ones.  Had  any  peas  ?" 

"  I  didn't  have  more'n  three  or  four  messes.  I  guess  I 
planted  sweet-peas  mostly.  I  don't  know  hardly  how  I 
happened  to." 

"  Had  any  summer  squash  ?" 

"  Two  or  three.  There's  some  more  set,  if  they  ever  get 
ripe.  I  planted  some  gourds.  I  think  they  look  real  pret 
ty  on  the  kitchen  shelf  in  the  winter." 

"  I  should  think  you'd  got  a  sage  bed  big  enough  for  the 
whole  town." 

"Well,  I  have  got  a  pretty  good-sized  one.  I  always 
liked  them  blue  sage-blows.  You'd  better  hold  up  your 
dress  real  careful  goin'  through  here,  Mis'  Caxton,  or  you'll 
get  it  wet." 

The  two  women  picked  their  way  through  the  dewy  grass, 
around  a  corner  of  the  hedge,  and  Betsey  ushered  her  vis 
itor  into  the  house. 

"  Set  right  down  in  the  rockin-chair,"  said  she.  "  I'll 
jest  carry  these  beans  out  into  the  kitchen." 

"  I  should  think  you'd  better  get  another  pan  and  string 
'em,  or  you  won't  get  'em  done  for  dinner." 

"Well,  mebbe  I  will,  if  you'll  excuse  it,  Mis'  Caxton. 
The  beans  had  ought  to  boil  quite  a  while ;  they're  pretty  old." 

A   POETESS.  143 

Betsey  went  into  the  kitchen  and  returned  with  a  pan 
and  an  old  knife.  She  seated  herself  opposite  Mrs.  Caxton, 
and  began  to  string  and  cut  the  beans. 

"  If  I  was  in  your  place  I  shouldn't  feel  as  if  I'd  got 
enough  to  boil  a  kettle  for,"  said  Mrs.  Caxton,  eying  the 
beans.  "  I  should  'most  have  thought  when  you  didn't 
have  any  more  room  for  a  garden  than  you've  got  that 
you'd  planted  more  real  beans  and  peas  instead  of  so 
many  flowerin'  ones.  I'd  rather  have  a  good  mess  of 
green  peas  boiled  with  a  piece  of  salt  pork  than  all 
the  sweet-peas  you  could  give  me.  I  like  flowers  well 
enough,  but  I  never  set  up  for  a  butterfly,  an'  I  want  some 
thing  else  to  live  on."  She  looked  at  Betsey  with  pensive 

Betsey  was  near-sighted ;  she  had  to  bend  low  over  the 
beans  in  order  to  string  them.  She  was  fifty  years  old,  but 
she  wore  her  streaky  light  hair  in  curls  like  a  young  girl. 
The  curls  hung  over  her  faded  cheeks  and  almost  concealed 
them.  Once  in  a  while  she  flung  them  back  with  a  child 
ish  gesture  which  sat  strangely  upon  her. 

"  I  dare  say  you're  in  the  right  of  it,"  she  said,  meekly. 

"  I  know  I  am.  You  folks  that  write  poetry  wouldn't 
have  a  single  thing  to  eat  growin'  if  they  were  left  alone. 
And  that  brings  to  mind  what  I  come  for.  I've  been 
thinkin'  about  it  ever  since — our — little  Willie — left  us." 
Mrs.  Caxton's  manner  was  suddenly  full  of  shamefaced  dra 
matic  fervor,  her  eyes  reddened  with  tears. 

Betsey  looked  up  inquiringly,  throwing  back  her  curls. 
Her  face  took  on  unconsciously  lines  of  grief  so  like  the 
other  woman's  that  she  looked  like  her  for  the  minute. 

"  I  thought  maybe,"  Mrs.  Caxton  went  on,  tremulously, 
"  you'd  be  willin'  to — write  a  few  lines." 


"  Of  course  I  will,  Mis'  Caxton.  I'll  be  glad  to,  if  I  can 
do  'em  to  suit  you,"  Betsey  said,  tearfully. 

"  I  thought  jest  a  few — lines.  You  could  mention  how 
— handsome  he  was,  and  good,  and  I  never  had  to  punish 
him  but  once  in  his  life,  and  how  pleased  he  was  with  his 
little  new  suit,  and  what  a  sufferer  he  was,  and — how  we 
hope  he  is  at  rest — in  a  better  land." 

"  I'll  try,  Mis'  Caxton,  I'll  try,"  sobbed  Betsey.  The  two 
women  wept  together  for  a  few  minutes. 

"It  seems  as  if — I  couldn't  have  it  so  sometimes,"  Mrs. 
Caxton  said,  brokenly.  "I  keep  thinkin'  he's  in  the  other 
— room.  Every  time  I  go  back  home  when  I've  been  away 
it's  like — losin'  him  again.  Oh,  it  don't  seem  as  if  I  could 
go  home  and  not  find  him  there — it  don't,  it  don't !  Oh, 
you  don't  know  anything  about  it,  Betsey.  You  never  had 
any  children !" 

"I  don't  s'pose  I  do,  Mis'  Caxton;  I  don't  s'pose  I  do." 

Presently  Mrs.  Caxton  wiped  her  eyes.  "  I've  been 
thinkin',"  said  she,  keeping  her  mouth  steady  with  an  ef 
fort,  "  that  it  would  be  real  pretty  to  have — some  lines 
printed  on  some  sheets  of  white  paper  with  a  neat  black 
border.  I'd  like  to  send  some  to  my  folks,  and  one  to  the 
Perkinses  in  Brigham,  and  there's  a  good  many  others  I 
thought  would  value  'em." 

"  I'll  do  jest  the  best  I  can,  Mis'  Caxton,  an'  be  glad  to. 
It's  little  enough  anybody  can  do  at  such  times." 

Mrs.  Caxton  broke  out  weeping  again.  "  Oh,  it's  true, 
it's  true,  Betsey  !"  she  sobbed.  "  Nobody  can  do  anything, 
and  nothin'  amounts  to  anything — poetry  or  anything  else 
— when  he's  gone.  Nothin'  can  bring  him  back.  Oh,  what 
shall  I  do,  what  shall  I  do?" 

Mrs.  Caxton  dried  her  tears  again,  and  arose  to  take 

A  POETESS.  145 

leave.  "Well,  I  must  be  goin',  or  Wilson  won't  have  any 
dinner,"  she  said,  with  an  effort  at  self-control. 

"  Well,  I'll  do  jest  the  best  I  can  with  the  poetry,"  said 
Betsey.  "  I'll  write  it  this  afternoon."  She  had  set  down 
her  pan  of  beans  and  was  standing  beside  Mrs.  Caxton. 
She  reached  up  and  straightened  her  black  bonnet,  which 
had  slipped  backward. 

"  I've  got  to  get  a  pin,"  said  Mrs.  Caxton,  tearfully.  "  I 
can't  keep  it  anywheres.  It  drags  right  off  my  head,  the 
veil  is  so  heavy." 

Betsey  went  to  the  door  with  her  visitor.  "  It's  dreadful 
dusty,  ain't  it?"  she  remarked,  in  that  sad,  contemptuous 
tone  with  which  one  speaks  of  discomforts  in  the  presence 
of  affliction. 

"  Terrible,"  replied  Mrs.  Caxton.  "  I  wouldn't  wear  my 
black  dress  in  it  nohow;  a  black  bonnet  is  bad  enough. 
This  dress  is  'most  too  good.  It's  enough  to  spoil  every 
thing.  Well,  I'm  much  obliged  to  you,  Betsey,  for  bein' 
willin'  to  do  that." 

"  I'll  do  jest  the  best  I  can,  Mis'  Caxton." 

After  Betsey  had  watched  her  visitor  out  of  the  yard  she 
returned  to  the  sitting-room  and  took  up  the  pan  of  beans. 
She  looked  doubtfully  at  the  handful  of  beans  all  nicely 
strung  and  cut  up.  "  I  declare  I  don't  know  what  to  do," 
said  she.  "  Seems  as  if  I  should  kind  of  relish  these,  but 
it's  goin'  to  take  some  time  to  cook  'em,  tendin'  the  fire  an' 
everything,  an'  I'd  ought  to  go  to  work  on  that  poetry. 
Then,  there's  another  thkig,  if  I  have  'em  to-day,  I  can't 
to-morrow.  Mebbe  I  shall  take  more  comfort  thinkin' 
about  'em.  I  guess  I'll  leave  'em  over  till  to-morrow." 

Betsey  carried  the  pan  of  beans  out  into  the  kitchen  and 
set  them  away  in  the  pantry.  She  stood  scrutinizing  the 

146  A  POETESS. 

shelves  like  a  veritable  Mother  Hubbard.  There  was  a 
plate  containing  three  or  four  potatoes  and  a  slice  of  cold 
boiled  pork,  and  a  spoonful  of  red  jelly  in  a  tumbler ;  that 
was  all  the  food  in  sight.  Betsey  stooped  and  lifted  the 
lid  from  an  earthen  jar  on  the  floor.  She  took  out  two 
slices  of  bread.  "  There  !"  said  she.  "  I'll  have  this  bread 
and  that  jelly  this  noon,  an'  to-night  I'll  have  a  kind  of  din 
ner-supper  with  them  potatoes  warmed  up  with  the  pork. 
An'  then  I  can  sit  right  down  an'  go  to  work  on  that  poetry." 

It  was  scarcely  eleven  o'clock,  and  not  time  for  dinner. 
Betsey  returned  to  the  sitting-room,  got  an  old  black  port 
folio  and  pen  and  ink  out  of  the  chimney  cupboard,  and 
seated  herself  to  work.  She  meditated,  and  wrote  one  line, 
then  another.  Now  and  then  she  read  aloud  what  she  had 
written  with  a  solemn  intonation.  She  sat  there  thinking 
and  writing,  and  the  time  went  on.  The  twelve-o'clock  bell 
rang,  but  she  never  noticed  it ;  she  had  quite  forgotten  the 
bread  and  jelly.  The  long  curls  drooped  over  her  cheeks  ; 
her  thin  yellow  hand,  cramped  around  the  pen,  moved 
slowly  and  fitfully  over  the  paper.  The  light  in  the  room 
was  dim  and  green,  like  the  light  in  an  arbor,  from  the  tall 
hedge  before  the  windows.  Great  plumy  bunches  of  aspar 
agus  waved  over  the  tops  of  the  looking-glass ;  a  framed 
sampler,  a  steel  engraving  of  a  female  head  taken  from 
some  old  magazine,  and  sheaves  of  dried  grasses  hung  on 
or  were  fastened  to  the  walls  ;  vases  and  tumblers  of  flow 
ers  stood  on  the  shelf  and  table.  The  air  was  heavy  and 

Betsey  in  this  room,  bending  over  her  portfolio,  looked 
like  the  very  genius  of  gentle,  old-fashioned,  sentimental 
poetry.  It  seemed  as  if  one,  given  the  premises  of  herself 
and  the  room,  could  easily  deduce  what  she  would  write, 



and  read  without  seeing  those  lines  wherein  flowers  rhymed 
sweetly  with  vernal  bowers,  home  with  beyond  the  tomb, 
and  heaven  with  even. 

The  summer  afternoon  wore  on.  It  grew  warmer  and 
closer ;  the  air  was  full  of  the  rasping  babble  of  insects, 
with  the  cicadas  shrilling  over  them;  now  and  then  a  team 
passed,  and  a  dust  cloud  floated  over  the  top  of  the  hedge ; 
the  canary  at  the  door  chirped  and  trilled,  and  Betsey  wrote 
poor  little  Willie  Caxton's  obituary  poetry. 

Tears  stood  in  her  pale  blue  eyes ;  occasionally  they 
rolled  down  her  cheeks,  and  she  wiped  them  away.  She 
kept  her  handkerchief  in  her  lap  with  her  portfolio.  When 
she  looked  away  from  the  paper  she  seemed  to  see  two 
childish  forms  in  the  room — one  purely  human,  a  boy  clad 
in  his  little  girl  petticoats,  with  a  fair  chubby  face  ;  the 
other  in  a  little  straight  white  night-gown,  with  long,  shin 
ing  wings,  and  the  same  face.  Betsey  had  not  enough  im 
agination  to  change  the  face.  Little  Willie  Caxton's  angel 
was  still  himself  to  her,  although  decked  in  the  parapher 
nalia  of  the  resurrection. 

"  I  s'pose  I  can't  feel  about  it  nor  write  about  it  anything 
the  way  I  could  if  I'd  had  any  children  of  my  own  an'  lost 
'em.  I  s'pose  it  would  have  come  home  to  me  different," 
Betsey  murmured  once,  sniffing.  A  soft  color  flamed  up 
under  her  curls  at  the  thought.  For  a  second  the  room 
seemed  all  aslant  with  white  wings,  and  smiling  with  the 
faces  of  children  that  had  never  been.  Betsey  straightened 
herself  as  if  she  were  trying  to  be  dignified  to  her  inner 
consciousness.  "  That's  one  trouble  I've  been  clear  of,  any 
how,"  said  she ;  "  an'  I  guess  I  can  enter  into  her  feelin's 

She  glanced  at  a  great  pink  shell  on  the  shelf,  and  re- 

148  A  POETESS. 

membered  how  she  had  often  given  it  to  the  dead  child  to 
play  with  when  he  had  been  in  with  his  mother,  and  how  he 
had  put  it  to  his  ear  to  hear  the  sea. 

"  Dear  little  fellow !"  she  sobbed,  and  sat  awhile  with  her 
handkerchief  at  her  face. 

Betsey  wrote  her  poem  upon  backs  of  old  letters  and  odd 
scraps  of  paper.  She  found  it  difficult  to  procure  enough 
paper  for  fair  copies  of  her  poems  when  composed  ;  she  was 
forced  to  be  very  economical  with  the  first  draft.  Her 
portfolio  was  piled  with  a  loose  litter  of  written  papers  when 
she  at  length  arose  and  stretched  her  stiff  limbs.  It  was 
near  sunset;  men  with  dinner-pails  were  tramping  past  the 
gate,  going  home  from  their  work. 

Betsey  laid  the  portfolio  on  the  table.  "There!  I've 
wrote  sixteen  verses,"  said  she,  "  an'  I  guess  I've  got  every 
thing  in.  I  guess  she'll  think  that's  enough.  I  can  copy 
it  off  nice  to-morrow.  I  can't  see  to-night  to  do  it,  any 

There  were  red  spots  on  Betsey's  cheeks;  her  knees 
were  unsteady  when  she  walked.  She  went  into  the  kitchen 
and  made  a  fire,  and  set  on  the  tea-kettle.  "  I  guess  I  won't 
warm  up  them  potatoes  to-night,"  said  she  ;  "  I'll  have  the 
bread  an'  jelly,  an'  save  'em  for  breakfast.  Somehow  I 
don't  seem  to  feel  so  much  like  'em  as  I  did,  an'  fried  po 
tatoes  is  apt  to  lay  heavy  at  night." 

When  the  kettle  boiled,  Betsey  drank  her  cup  of  tea  and 
soaked  her  slice  of  bread  in  it ;  then  she  put  away  her  cup 
and  saucer  and  plate,  and  went  out  to  water  her  garden. 
The  weather  was  so  dry  and  hot  it  had  to  be  watered  every 
night.  Betsey  had  to  carry  the  water  from  a  neighbor's 
well ;  her  own  was  dry.  Back  and  forth  she  went  in  the 
deepening  twilight,  her  slender  body  strained  to  one  side 

A   POETESS.  149 

with  the  heavy  water-pail,  until  the  garden-mould  looked 
dark  and  wet.  Then  she  took  in  the  canary-bird,  locked 
up  her  house,  and  soon  her  light  went  out.  Often  on  these 
summer  nights  Betsey  went  to  bed  without  lighting  a  lamp 
at  all.  There  was  no  moon,  but  it  was  a  beautiful  starlight 
night.  She  lay  awake  nearly  all  night,  thinking  of  her  poem. 
She  altered  several  lines  in  her  mind. 

She  arose  early,  made  herself  a  cup  of  tea,  and  warmed 
over  the  potatoes,  then  sat  down  to  copy  the  poem.  She 
wrote  it  out  on  both  sides  of  note-paper,  in  a  neat,  cramped 
hand.  It  was  the  middle  of  the  afternoon  before  it  was 
finished.  She  had  been  obliged  to  stop  work  and  cook  the 
beans  for  dinner,  although  she  begrudged  the  time.  When 
the  poem  was  fairly  copied,  she  rolled  it  neatly  and  tied  it 
with  a  bit  of  black  ribbon  ;  then  she  made  herself  ready  to 
carry  it  to  Mrs.  Caxton's. 

It  was  a  hot  afternoon.  Betsey  went  down  the  street  in 
her  thinnest  dress — an  old  delaine,  with  delicate  bunches 
of  faded  flowers  on  a  faded  green  ground.  There  was  a 
narrow  green  belt  ribbon  around  her  long  waist.  She  wore 
a  green  barege  bonnet,  stiffened  with  rattans,  scooping  over 
her  face,  with  her  curls  pushed  forward  over  her  thin  cheeks 
in  two  bunches,  and  she  carried  a  small  green  parasol  with 
a  jointed  handle.  Her  costume  was  obsolete,  even  in  the 
little  country  village  where  she  lived.  She  had  worn  it 
every  summer  for  the  last  twenty  years.  She  made  no 
more  change  in  her  attire  than  the  old  perennials  in  her 
garden.  She  had  no  money  with  which  to  buy  new  clothes, 
and  the  old  satisfied  her.  She  had  come  to  regard  them  as 
being  as  unalterably  a  part  of  herself  as  her  body. 

Betsey  went  on,  setting  her  slim,  cloth-gaitered  feet  daint 
ily  in  the  hot  sand  of  the  road.  She  carried  her  roll  of 

150  A  POETESS. 

poetry  in  a  black-mitted  hand.  She  walked  rather  slowly. 
She  was  not  very  strong ;  there  was  a  limp  feeling  in  her 
knees ;  her  face,  under  the  green  shade  of  her  bonnet,  was 
pale  and  moist  with  the  heat. 

She  was  glad  to  reach  Mrs.  Caxton's  and  sit  down  in  her 
parlor,  damp  and  cool  and  dark  as  twilight,  for  the  blinds 
and  curtains  had  been  drawn  all  day.  Not  a  breath  of  the 
fervid  out-door  air  had  penetrated  it. 

"Come  right  in  this  way;  it's  cooler  than  the  sittin'- 
room,"  Mrs.  Caxton  said  ;  and  Betsey  sank  into  the  hair 
cloth  rocker  and  waved  a  palm-leaf  fan. 

Mrs.  Caxton  sat  close  to  the  window  in  the  dim  light,  and 
read  the  poem.  She  took  out  her  handkerchief  and  wiped 
her  eyes  as  she  read.  "  It's  beautiful,  beautiful,"  she  said, 
tearfully,  when  she  had  finished.  "  It's  jest  as  comfortin' 
as  it  can  be,  and  you  worked  that  in  about  his  new  suit  so 
nice.  I  feel  real  obliged  to  you,  Betsey,  and  you  shall  have 
one  of  the  printed  ones  when  they're  done.  I'm  goin'  to 
see  to  it  right  off." 

Betsey  flushed  and  smiled.  It  was  to  her  as  if  her  poem 
had  been  approved  and  accepted  by  one  of  the  great  maga 
zines.  She  had  the  pride  and  self-wonderment  of  recog 
nized  genius.  She  went  home  buoyantly,  under  the  wilting 
sun,  after  her  call  was  done.  When  she  reached  home 
there  was  no  one  to  whom  she  could  tell  her  triumph,  but 
the  hot  spicy  breath  of  the  evergreen  hedge  and  the  fervent 
sweetness  of  the  sweet-peas  seemed  to  greet  her  like  the 
voices  of  friends. 

She  could  scarcely  wait  for  the  printed  poem.  Mrs.  Cax 
ton  brought  it,  and  she  inspected  it,  neatly  printed  in  its 
black  border.  She  was  quite  overcome  with  innocent 

A   POETESS.  !5I 

"  Well,  I  don't  know  but  it  does  read  pretty  well,"  said 

"  It's  beautiful,"  said  Mrs.  Caxton,  fervently.  "  Mr.  White 
said  he  never  read  anything  any  more  touchin',  when  I  car 
ried  it  to  him  to  print.  I  think  folks  are  goin'  to  think  a 
good  deal  of  havin'  it.  I've  had  two  dozen  printed." 

It  was  to  Betsey  like  a  large  edition  of  a  book.  She  had 
written  obituary  poems  before,  but  never  one  had  been 
printed  in  this  sumptuous  fashion.  "  I  declare  I  think  it 
would  look  pretty  framed  !"  said  she. 

"Well,  I  don't  know  but  it  would,"  said  Mrs.  Caxton. 
"  Anybody  might  have  a  neat  little  black  frame,  and  it 
would  look  real  appropriate." 

"  I  wonder  how  much  it  would  cost  ?"  said  Betsey. 

After  Mrs.  Caxton  had  gone,  she  sat  long,  staring  admir 
ingly  at  the  poem,  and  speculating  as  to  the  cost  of  a  frame. 
"  There  ain't  no  use ;  I  can't  have  it  nohow,  not  if  it  don't 
cost  more'n  a  quarter  of  a  dollar,"  said  she. 

Then  she  put  the  poem  away  and  got  her  supper.  No 
body  knew  how  frugal  Betsey  Dole's  suppers  and  break 
fasts  and  dinners  were.  Nearly  all  her  food  in  the  summer 
came  from  the  scanty  vegetables  which  flourished  between 
the  flowers  in  her  garden.  She  ate  scarcely  more  than  her 
canary-bird,  and  sang  as  assiduously.  Her  income  was  al 
most  infinitesimal :  the  interest  at  a  low  per  cent,  of  a  tiny 
sum  in  the  village  savings-bank,  the  remnant  of  her  father's 
little  hoard  after  his  funeral  expenses  had  been  paid.  Betsey 
had  lived  upon  it  for  twenty  years,  and  considered  herself 
well-to-do.  She  had  never  received  a  cent  for  her  poems ; 
she  had  not  thought  of  such  a  thing  as  possible.  The  ap 
pearance  of  this  last  in  such  shape  was  worth  more  to  her 
than  its  words  represented  in  as  many  dollars. 

!g2  *   POETESS. 

Betsey  kept  the  poem  pinned  on  the  wall  under  the  look 
ing-glass  ;  if  any  one  came  in,  she  tried  with  delicate  hints 
to  call  attention  to  it.  It  was  two  weeks  after  she  received 
it  that  the  downfall  of  her  innocent  pride  came. 

One  afternoon  Mrs.  Caxton  called.  It  was  raining  hard. 
Betsey  could  scarcely  believe  it  was  she  when  she  went  to 
the  door  and  found  her  standing  there. 

"  Why,  Mis'  Caxton  !"  said  she.  "  Ain't  you  wet  to  your 

"  Yes,  I  guess  I  be,  pretty  near.  I  s'pose  I  hadn't  ought 
to  come  'way  down  here  in  such  a  soak ;  but  I  went  into 
Sarah  Rogers's  a  minute  after  dinner,  and  something  she 
said  made  me  so  mad,  I  made  up  my  mind  I'd  come  down 
here  and  tell  you  about  it  if  I  got  drowned."  Mrs.  Caxton 
was  out  of  breath ;  rain-drops  trickled  from  her  hair  over 
her  face ;  she  stood  in  the  door  and  shut  her  umbrella 
with  a  vicious  shake  to  scatter  the  water  from  it.  "  I  don't 
know  what  you're  goin'  to  do  with  this,"  said  she ;  "  it's 

"  I'll  take  it  out  an'  put  it  in  the  kitchen  sink." 

"  Well,  I'll  take  off  my  shawl  here  too,  and  you  can  hang 
it  out  in  the  kitchen.  I  spread  this  shawl  out.  I  thought 
it  would  keep  the  rain  off  me  some.  I  know  one  thing,  I'm 
goin'  to  have  a  waterproof  if  I  live." 

When  the  two  women  were  seated  in  the  sitting-room, 
Mrs.  Caxton  was  quiet  for  a  moment.  There  was  a  hesi 
tating  look  on  her  face,  fresh  with  the  moist  wind,  with 
strands  of  wet  hair  clinging  to  the  temples. 

"I  don't  know  as  I  had  ought  to  tell  you,"  she  said, 

"Why  hadn't  you  ought  to?" 

"  Well,  I  don't  care ;  I'm  goin'  to,  anyhow.    I  think  you'd 

A  POETESS.  153 

ought  to  know,  an'  it  ain't  so  bad  for  you  as  it  is  for  me. 
It  don't  begin  to  be.  I  put  considerable  money  into  'em. 
I  think  Mr.  White  was  pretty  high,  myself." 

Betsey  looked  scared.  "What  is  it?"  she  asked,  in  a 
weak  voice. 

"  Sarah  jRogers  says  that  the  minister  told  her  Ida  that  that 
poetry  you  wrote  was  jest  as  poor  as  it  could  be,  an!  it  was  in 
dreadful  bad  taste  to  have  it  printed  an1  sent  round  that  way. 
What  do  you  think  of  that  ?" 

Betsey  did  not  reply.  She  sat  looking  at  Mrs.  Caxton 
as  a  victim  whom  the  first  blow  had  not  killed  might  look 
at  her  executioner.  Her  face  was  like  a  pale  wedge  of  ice 
between  her  curls. 

Mrs.  Caxton  went  on.  "  Yes,  she  said  that  right  to  my 
face,  word  for  word.  An'  there  was  something  else.  She 
said  the  minister  said  that  you  had  never  wrote  anything 
that  could  be  called  poetry,  an'  it  was  a  dreadful  waste  of 
time.  I  don't  s'pose  he  thought  'twas  comin'  back  to  you. 
You  know  he  goes  with  Ida  Rogers,  an'  I  s'pose  he  said  it 
to  her  kind  of  confidential  when  she  showed  him  the  poetry. 
There!  I  gave  Sarah  Rogers  one  of  them  nice  printed 
ones,  an'  she  acted  glad  enough  to  have  it.  Bad  taste ! 
H'm  !  If  anybody  wants  to  say  anything  against  that 
beautiful  poetry,  printed  with  that  nice  black  border,  they 
can.  I  don't  care  if  it's  the  minister,  or  who  it  is.  I  don't 
care  if  he  does  write  poetry  himself,  an'  has  had  some 
printed  in  a  magazine.  Maybe  his  ain't  quite  so  fine  as  he 
thinks  'tis.  Maybe  them  magazine  folks  jest  took  his  for 
lack  of  something  better.  I'd  like  to  have  you  send  that 
poetry  there.  Bad  taste!  I  jest  got  right  up.  ' Sarah 
Rogers,'  says  I,  '  I  hope  you  won't  never  do  anything  your 
self  in  any  worse  taste.'  I  trembled  so  I  could  hardly 



speak,  and  I  made  up  my  mind  I'd  come  right  straight 
over  here." 

Mrs.  Caxton  went  on  and  on.  Betsey  sat  listening,  and 
saying  nothing.  She  looked  ghastly.  Just  before  Mrs. 
Caxton  went  home  she  noticed  it.  "  Why,  Betsey  Dole," 
she  cried,  "  you  look  as  white  as  a  sheet.  You  ain't  takin' 
it  to  heart  as  much  as  all  that  comes  to,  I  hope.  Good 
ness,  I  wish  I  hadn't  told  you !" 

"  I'd  a  good  deal  ruther  you  told  me,"  replied  Betsey, 
with  a  certain  dignity.  She  looked  at  Mrs.  Caxton.  Her 
back  was  as  stiff  as  if  she  were  bound  to  a  stake. 

"Well,  I  thought  you  would,"  said  Mrs.  Caxton,  uneasily  ; 
"and  you're  dreadful  silly  if  you  take  it  to  heart,  Betsey, 
that's  all  I've  got  to  say.  Goodness,  I  guess  I  don't,  and 
it's  full  as  hard  on  me  as  'tis  on  you !" 

Mrs.  Caxton  arose  to  go.  Betsey  brought  her  shawl  and 
umbrella  from  the  kitchen,  and  helped  her  off.  Mrs.  Cax 
ton  turned  on  the  door-step  and  looked  back  at  Betsey's 
white  face.  "  Now  don't  go  to  thinkin'  about  it  any  more," 
said  she.  "  I  ain't  goin'  to.  It  ain't  worth  mindin'.  Every 
body  knows  what  Sarah  Rogers  is.  Good-by." 

"Good-by,  Mis'  Caxton,"  said  Betsey.  She  went  back 
into  the  sitting-room.  It  was  a  cold  rain,  and  the  room 
was  gloomy  and  chilly.  She  stood  looking  out  of  the  win 
dow,  watching  the  rain  pelt  on  the  hedge.  The  bird-cage 
hung  at  the  other  window.  The  bird  watched  her  with  his 
head  on  one  side ;  then  he  begun  to  chirp. 

Suddenly  Betsey  faced  about  and  began  talking.  It  was 
not  as  if  she  were  talking  to  herself ;  it  seemed  as  if  she 
recognized  some  other  presence  in  the  room.  "  I'd  like  to 
know  if  it's  fair,"  said  she.  "  I'd  like  to  know  if  you  think 
it's  fair.  Had  I  ought  to  have  been  born  with  the  wantin' 


to  write  poetry  if  I  couldn't  write  it — had  I  ?  Had  I  ought 
to  have  been  let  to  write  all  my  life,  an'  not  know  before 
there  wa'n't  any  use  in  it  ?  Would  it  be  fair  if  that  canary- 
bird  there,  that  ain't  never  done  anything  but  sing,  should 
turn  out  not  to  be  singin'  ?  Would  it,  I'd  like  to  know  ? 
S'pose  them  sweet-peas  shouldn't  be  smellin'  the  right 
way  ?  I  ain't  been  dealt  with  as  fair  as  they  have,  I'd  like 
to  know  if  I  have." 

The  bird  trilled  and  trilled.  It  was  as  if  the  golden 
down  on  his  throat  bubbled.  Betsey  went  across  the  room 
to  a  cupboard  beside  the  chimney.  On  the  shelves  were 
neatly  stacked  newspapers  and  little  white  rolls  of  writing- 
paper.  Betsey  began  clearing  the  shelves.  She  took  out 
the  newspapers  first,  got  the  scissors,  and  cut  a  poem  neat 
ly  out  of  the  corner  of  each.  Then  she  took  up  the  clipped 
poems  and  the  white  rolls  in  her  apron,  and  carried  them 
into  the  kitchen.  She  cleaned  out  the  stove  carefully,  re 
moving  every  trace  of  ashes ;  then  she  put  in  the  papers, 
and  set  them  on  fire.  She  stood  watching  them  as  their 
edges  curled  and  blackened,  then  leaped  into  flame.  Her 
face  twisted  as  if  the  fire  were  curling  over  it  also.  Other 
women  might  have  burned  their  lovers'  letters  in  agony  of 
heart.  Betsey  had  never  had  any  lover,  but  she  was  burn 
ing  all  the  love-letters  that  had  passed  between  her  and 
life.  When  the  flames  died  out  she  got  a  blue  china  sugar- 
bowl  from  the  pantry  and  dipped  the  ashes  into  it  with  one 
of  her  thin  silver  teaspoons ;  then  she  put  on  the  cover  and 
set  it  away  in  the  sitting-room  cupboard. 

The  bird,  who  had  been  silent  while  she  was  out,  began 
chirping  again.  Betsey  went  back  to  the  pantry  and  got  a 
lump  of  sugar,  which  she  stuck  between  the  cage  wires. 
She  looked  at  the  clock  on  the  kitchen  shelf  as  she  went 

156  A  POETESS. 

by.  It  was  after  six.  "  I  guess  I  don't  want  any  supper 
to-night,"  she  muttered. 

She  sat  down  by  the  window  again.  The  bird  pecked 
at  his  sugar.  Betsey  shivered  and  coughed.  She  had 
coughed  more  or  less  for  years.  People  said  she  had  the 
old-fashioned  consumption.  She  sat  at  the  window  until  it 
was  quite  dark ;  then  she  went  to  bed  in  her  little  bedroom 
out  of  the  sitting-room.  She  shivered  so  she  could  not  hold 
herself  upright  crossing  the  room.  She  coughed  a  great 
deal  in  the  night. 

Betsey  was  always  an  early  riser.  She  was  up  at  five  the 
next  morning.  The  sun  shone,  but  it  was  very  cold  for  the 
season.  The  leaves  showed  white  in  a  north  wind,  and  the 
flowers  looked  brighter  than  usual,  though  they  were  bent 
with  the  rain  of  the  day  before.  Betsey  went  out  in  the 
garden  to  straighten  her  sweet-peas. 

Coming  back,  a  neighbor  passing  in  the  street  eyed  her 
curiously.  "  Why,  Betsey,  you  sick  ?"  said  she. 

"  No ;  I'm  kinder  chilly,  that's  all,"  replied  Betsey. 

But  the  woman  went  home  and  reported  that  Betsey  Dole 
looked  dreadfully,  and  she  didn't  believe  she'd  ever  see  an 
other  summer. 

It  was  now  late  August.  Before  October  it  was  quite 
generally  recognized  that  Betsey  Dole's  life  was  nearly 
over.  She  had  no  relatives,  and  hired  nurses  were  rare  in 
this  little  village.  Mrs.  Caxton  came  voluntarily  and  took 
care  of  her,  only  going  home  to  prepare  her  husband's  meals. 
Betsey's  bed  was  moved  into  the  sitting-room,  and  the  neigh 
bors  came  every  day  to  see  her,  and  brought  little  delica 
cies.  Betsey  had  talked  very  little  all  her  life ;  she  talked 
less  now,  and  there  was  a  reticence  about  her  which  some 
what  intimidated  the  other  women.  They  would  look  pity- 


ingly  and  solemnly  at  her,  and  whisper  in  the  entry  when 
they  went  out. 

Betsey  never  complained ;  but  she  kept  asking  if  the 
minister  had  got  home.  He  had  been  called  away  by  his 
mother's  illness,  and  returned  only  a  week  before  Betsey  died. 

He  came  over  at  once  to  see  her.  Mrs.  Caxton  ushered 
him  in  one  afternoon. 

"  Here's  Mr.  Lang  come  to  see  you,  Betsey,"  said  she,  in 
the  tone  she  would  have  used  towards  a  little  child.  She 
placed  the  rocking-chair  for  the  minister,  and  was  about  to 
seat  herself,  when  Betsey  spoke  : 

"Would  you  mind  goin'  out  in  the  kitchen  jest  a  few 
minutes,  Mis'  Caxton  ?"  said  she. 

Mrs.  Caxton  arose,  and  went  out  with  an  embarrassed 
trot.  Then  there  was  silence.  The  minister  was  a  young 
man — a  country  boy  who  had  worked  his  way  through  a 
country  college.  He  was  gaunt  and  awkward,  but  sturdy  in 
his  loose  clothes.  He  had  a  homely,  impetuous  face,  with 
a  good  forehead. 

He  looked  at  Betsey's  gentle,  wasted  face,  sunken  in  the 
pillow,  framed  by  its  clusters  of  curls ;  finally  he  began  to 
speak  in  the  stilted  fashion,  yet  with  a  certain  force  by 
reason  of  his  unpolished  honesty,  about  her  spiritual  wel 
fare.  Betsey  listened  quietly  ;  now  and  then  she  assented. 
She  had  been  a  church  member  for  years.  It  seemed  now 
to  the  young  man  that  this  elderly  maiden,  drawing  near  the 
end  of  her  simple,  innocent  life,  had  indeed  her  lamp,  which 
no  strong  winds  of  temptation  had  ever  met,  well  trimmed 
and  burning. 

When  he  paused,  Betsey  spoke.  "Will  you  go  to  the 
cupboard  side  of  the  chimney  and  bring  me  the  blue  sugar- 
bowl  on  the  top  shelf?"  said  she,  feebly. 


The  young  man  stared  at  her  a  minute  ;  then  he  went  to 
the  cupboard,  and  brought  the  sugar-bowl  to  her.  He  held 
it,  and  Betsey  took  off  the  lid  with  her  weak  hand.  "  Do 
you  see  what's  in  there  ?"  said  she. 

"  It  looks  like  ashes." 

"  It's — the  ashes  of  all— the  poetry  I — ever  wrote." 

"  Why,  what  made  you  burn  it,  Miss  Dole  ?" 

"  I  found  out  it  wa'n't  worth  nothin  V 

The  minister  looked  at  her  in  a  bewildered  way.  He  be 
gan  to  question  if  she  were  not  wandering  in  her  mind.  He 
did  not  once  suspect  his  own  connection  with  the  matter. 

Betsey  fastened  her  eager,  sunken  eyes  upon  his  face. 
"What  I  want  to  know  is — if  you'll  'tend  to — havin'  this — 
buried  with  me." 

The  minister  recoiled.  He  thought  to  himself  that  she 
certainly  was  wandering. 

"  No,  I  ain't  out  of  my  head,"  said  Betsey.  "  I  know 
what  I'm  sayin'.  Maybe  it's  queer  soundin',  but  it's  a  no 
tion  I've  took.  If  you'll — 'tend  to  it,  I  shall  be — much 
obliged.  I  don't  know  anybody  else  I  can  ask." 

"  Well,  I'll  attend  to  it,  if  you  wish  me  to,  Miss  Dole," 
said  the  minister,  in  a  serious,  perplexed  manner.  She  re 
placed  the  lid  on  the  sugar-bowl,  and  left  it  in  his  hands. 

"  Well,  I  shall  be  much  obliged  if  you  will  'tend  to  it ; 
an'  now  there's  something  else,"  said  she. 

"  What  is  it,  Miss  Dole  ?" 

She  hesitated  a  moment.  "You  write  poetry,  don't 
you  ?" 

The  minister  colored.     "  Why,  yes  ;  a  little  sometimes." 

"  It's  good  poetry,  ain't  it  ?  They  printed  some  in  a 

The  minister  laughed  confusedly.     "Well,  Miss  Dole,  I 

A  POETESS.  159 

don't  know  how  good  poetry  it  may  be,  but  they  did  print 
some  in  a  magazine." 

Betsey  lay  looking  at  him.  "  I  never  wrote  none  that 
was — good,"  she  whispered,  presently;  "but  I've  been 
thinkin' — if  you  would  jest  write  a  few — lines  about  me — - 
afterward —  I've  been  thinkin'  that — mebbe  my — dyin' 
was  goin'  to  make  me — a  good  subject  for — poetry,  if  I 
never  wrote  none.  If  you  would  jest  write  a  few  lines." 

The  minister  stood  holding  the  sugar-bowl ;  he  was  quite 
pale  with  bewilderment  and  sympathy.  "  I'll — do  the  best 
I  can,  Miss  Dole,"  he  stammered. 

"  I'll  be  much  obliged,"  said  Betsey,  as  if  the  sense  of 
grateful  obligation  was  immortal  like  herself.  She  smiled, 
and  the  sweetness  of  the  smile  was  as  evident  through  the 
drawn  lines  of  her  mouth  as  the  old  red  in  the  leaves  of  a 
withered  rose.  The  sun  was  setting ;  a  red  beam  flashed 
softly  over  the  top  of  the  hedge  and  lay  along  the  opposite 
wall ;  then  the  bird  in  his  cage  began  to  chirp.  He  chirped 
faster  and  faster  until  he  trilled  into  a  triumphant  song. 


THE  day  before  there  had  been  a  rain  and  a  thaw,  tnen 
in  the  night  the  wind  had  suddenly  blown  from  the  north, 
and  it  had  grown  cold.  In  the  morning  it  was  very  clear 
and  cold,  and  there  was  the  hard  glitter  of  ice  over  every 
thing.  The  snow-crust  had  a  thin  coat  of  ice,  and  all  the 
open  fields  shone  and  flashed.  The  tree  boughs  and 
trunks,  and  all  the  little  twigs,  were  enamelled  with  ice. 
The  roads  were  glare  and  slippery  with  it,  and  so  were  the 
door-yards.  In  old  Jonas  Carey's  yard  the  path  that  sloped 
from  the  door  to  the  well  was  like  a  frozen  brook. 

Quite  early  in  the  morning  old  Jonas  Carey  came  out 
with  a  pail,  and  went  down  the  path  to  the  well.  He  went 
slowly  and  laboriously,  shuffling  his  feet,  so  he  should  not 
fall.  He  was  tall  and  gaunt,  and  one  side  of  his  body 
seemed  to  slant  towards  the  other,  he  settled  so  much  more 
heavily  upon  one  foot.  He  was  somewhat  stiff  and  lame 
from  rheumatism. 

He  reached  the  well  in  safety,  hung  the  pail,  and  began 
pumping.  He  pumped  with  extreme  slowness  and  steadi 
ness  •  a  certain  expression  of  stolid  solemnity,  which  his  face 
wore,  never  changed. 

When  he  had  filled  his  pail  he  took  it  carefully  from  the 
pump  spout,  and  started  back  to  the  house,  shuffling  as  be- 


fore.  He  was  two  thirds  of  the  way  to  the  door,  when  he 
came  to  an  extremely  slippery  place.  Just  there  some  roots 
from  a  little  cherry-tree  crossed  the  path,  and  the  ice  made 
a  dangerous  little  pitch  over  them. 

Old  Jonas  lost  his  footing,  and  sat  down  suddenly;  the 
water  was  all  spilled.  The  house  door  flew  open,  and  an 
old  woman  appeared. 

"  Oh,  Jonas,  air  you  hurt  ?"  she  cried,  blinking  wildly  and 
terrifiedly  in  the  brilliant  light. 

The  old  man  never  said  a  word.  He  sat  still  and  looked 
straight  before  him,  solemnly. 

"  Oh,  Jonas,  you  ain't  broke  any  bones,  hev  you  ?"  The 
old  woman  gathered  up  her  skirts  and  began  to  edge  off 
the  door-step,  with  trembling  knees. 

Then  the  old  man  raised  his  voice.  "  Stay  where  you 
be,"  he  said,  imperatively.  "  Go  back  into  the  house  !" 

He  began  to  raise  himself,  one  joint  at  a  time,  and  the 
old  woman  went  back  into  the  house,  and  looked  out  of  the 
window  at  him. 

When  old  Jonas  finally  stood  upon  his  feet  it  seemed  as 
if  he  had  actually  constructed  himself,  so  piecemeal  his  ris 
ing  had  been.  He  went  back  to  the  pump,  hung  the  pail 
under  the  spout,  and  filled  it.  Then  he  started  on  the  re 
turn  with  more  caution  than  before.  When  he  reached  the 
dangerous  place  his  feet  flew  up  again,  he  sat  down,  and  the 
water  was  spilled. 

The  old  woman  appeared  in  the  door;  her  dim  blue 
eyes  were  quite  round,  her  delicate  chin  was  dropped. 
"Oh,  Jonas!" 

"  Go  back  {"cried  the  old  man,  with  an  imperative  jerk  of 
his  head  towards  her,  and  she  retreated.  This  time  he  arose 
more  quickly,  and  made  quite  a  lively  shuffle  back  to  the  pump. 


But  when  his  pail  was  filled  and  he  again  started  on  the 
return,  his  caution  was  redoubled.  He  seemed  to  scarcely 
move  at  all.  When  he  approached  the  dangerous  spot  his 
progress  was  hardly  more  perceptible  than  a  scaly  leaf- 
slug's.  Repose  almost  lapped  over  motion.  The  old 
woman  in  the  window  watched  breathlessly. 

The  slippery  place  was  almost  passed,  the  shuffle  quick 
ened  a  little — the  old  man  sat  down  again,  and  the  tin  pail 
struck  the  ice  with  a  clatter. 

The  old  woman  appeared.     "  Oh,  Jonas  !" 

Jonas  did  not  look  at  her ;  he  sat  perfectly  motionless. 

"  Jonas,  air  you  hurt  ?  Do  speak  to  me  for  massy  sake !" 
Jonas  did  not  stir. 

Then  the  old  woman  let  herself  carefully  off  the  step. 
She  squatted  down  upon  the  icy  path,  and  hitched  along  to 
Jonas.  She  caught  hold  of  his  arm — "Jonas,  you  don't 
feel  as  if  any  of  your  bones  were  broke,  do  you  ?"  Her 
voice  was  almost  sobbing,  her  small  frame  was  all  of  a  trem 

"  Go  back !"  said  Jonas.  That  was  all  he  would  say. 
The  old  woman's  tearful  entreaties  did  not  move  him  in  the 
least.  Finally  she  hitched  herself  back  to  the  house,  and 
took  up  her  station  in  the  window.  Once  in  a  while  she 
rapped  on  the  pane,  and  beckoned  piteously. 

But  old  Jonas  Carey  sat  still.  His  solemn  face  was  in 
scrutable.  Over  his  head  stretched  the  icy  cherry-branches, 
full  of  the  flicker  and  dazzle  of  diamonds.  A  woodpecker 
flew  into  the  tree  and  began  tapping  at  the  trunk,  but  the 
ice-enamel  was  so  hard  that  he  could  not  get  any  food. 
Old  Jonas  sat  so  still  that  he  did  not  mind  him.  A  jay 
flew  on  the  fence  within  a  few  feet  of  him  ;  a  sparrow  pecked 
at  some  weeds  piercing  the  snow-crust  beside  the  door. 


Over  in  the  east  arose  the  mountain,  covered  with  frosty 
foliage  full  of  silver  and  blue  and  diamond  lights.  The  air 
was  stinging.  Old  Jonas  paid  no  attention  to  anything. 
He  sat  there. 

The  old  woman  ran  to  the  door  again.  "Oh,  Jonas, 
you'll  freeze,  settin'  there  !"  she  pleaded.  "  Can't  you  git 
up  ?  Your  bones  ain't  broke,  air  they  ?"  Jonas  was  silent. 

"Oh,  Jonas,  there's  Christmas  Jenny  comin'  down  the 
road — what  do  you  s'pose  she'll  think  ?" 

Old  Jonas  Carey  was  unmoved,  but  his  old  wife  eagerly 
watched  the  woman  coming  down  the  road.  The  woman 
looked  oddly  at  a  distance  :  like  a  broad  green  moving 
bush ;  she  was  dragging  something  green  after  her,  too. 
When  she  came  nearer  one  could  see  that  she  was  laden 
with  evergreen  wreaths — her  arms  were  strung  with  them ; 
long  sprays  of  ground-pine  were  wound  around  her  shoul 
ders,  she  carried  a  basket  trailing  with  them,  and  holding 
also  many  little  bouquets  of  bright-colored  everlasting  flow 
ers.  She  dragged  a  sled,  with  a  small  hemlock-tree  bound 
upon  it.  She  came  along  sturdily  over  the  slippery  road. 
When  she  reached  the  Carey  gate  she  stopped  and  looked 
over  at  Jonas.  "Is  he  hurt?"  she  sang  out  to  the  old 

"  I  dunno— he's  fell  down  three  times." 

Jenny  came  through  the  gate,  and  proceeded  straight  to 
Jonas.  She  left  her  sled  in  the  road.  She  stooped,  brought 
her  basket  on  a  level  with  Jonas's  head,  and  gave  him  a 
little  push  with  it.  "What's  the  matter  with  ye?"  Jonas 
did  not  wink.  "  Your  bones  ain't  broke,  are  they  ?" 

Jenny  stood  looking  at  him  for  a  moment.  She  wore 
a  black  hood,  her  large  face  was  weather-beaten,  deeply 
tanned,  and  reddened.  Her  features  were  strong,  but 


heavily  cut.  She  made  one  think  of  those  sylvan  faces 
with  features  composed  of  bark-wrinkles  and  knot-holes, 
that  one  can  fancy  looking  out  of  the  trunks  of  trees.  She 
was  not  an  aged  woman,  but  her  hair  was  iron-gray,  and 
crinkled  as  closely  as  gray  moss. 

Finally  she  turned  towards  the  house.  "  I'm  comin'  in  a 
minute,"  she  said  to  Jonas's  wife,  and  trod  confidently  up 
the  icy  steps. 

"Don't  you  slip,"  said  the  old  woman,  tremulously. 

"  I  ain't  afraid  of  slippin  V  When  they  were  in  the  house 
she  turned  around  on  Mrs.  Carey,  "  Don't  you  fuss,  he  ain't 

"  No,  I  don't  s'pose  he  is.  It's  jest  one  of  his  tantrums. 
But  I  dunno  what  I  am  goin'  to  do.  Oh,  dear  me  suz,  I 
dunno  what  I  am  goin'  to  do  with  him  sometimes !" 

"  Leave  him  alone — let  him  set  there." 

"Oh,  he's  tipped  all  that  water  over,  an'  I'm  afeard  he'll 
— freeze  down.  Oh,  dear !" 

"  Let  him  freeze  !     Don't  you  fuss,  Betsey." 

"  I  was  jest  goin'  to  git  breakfast.  Mis'  Gill  she  sent  us 
in  two  sassage-cakes.  I  was  goin'  to  fry  'em,  an'  I  jest 
asked  him  to  go  out  an'  draw  a  pail  of  water,  so's  to  fill  up 
the  tea-kittle.  Oh,  dear !" 

Jenny  sat  her  basket  in  a  chair,  strode  peremptorily  out 
of  the  house,  picked  up  the  tin  pail  which  lay  on  its  side 
near  Jonas,  filled  it  at  the  well,  and  returned.  She  wholly 
ignored  the  old  man.  When  she  entered  the  door  his  eyes 
relaxed  their  solemn  stare  at  vacancy,  and  darted  a  swift 
glance  after  her. 

"Now  fill  up  the  kittle,  an'  fry  the  sassages,"  she  said  to 
Mrs.  Carey. 

"  Oh,  I'm  afeard  he  won't  git  up,  an'  they'll  be  cold ! 


Sometimes  his  tantrums  last  a  considerable  while.  You  see 
he  sot  down  three  times,  an'  he's  awful  mad." 

"  I  don't  see  who  he  thinks  he's  spitin  V 

"  I  dunno,  'less  it's  Providence." 

"  I  reckon  Providence  don't  care  much  where  he  sets." 

"Oh,  Jenny,  I'm  dreadful  afeard  he'll  freeze  down." 

"  No,  he  won't.     Put  on  the  sassages." 

Jonas's  wife  went  about  getting  out  the  frying-pan,  croon 
ing  over  her  complaint  all  the  time.  "  He's  dreadful  fond 
of  sassages,"  she  said,  when  the  odor  of  the  frying  sausages 
became  apparent  in  the  room. 

"  He'll  smell  'em  an'  come  in,"  remarked  Jenny,  dryly. 
"  He  knows  there  ain't  but  two  cakes,  an'  he'll  be  afeard 
you'll  give  me  one  of  'em." 

She  was  right.  Before  long  the  two  women,  taking  sly 
peeps  from  the  window,  saw  old  Jonas  lumberingly  getting 
up.  "  Don't  say  nothin'  to  him  about  it  when  he  comes  in," 
whispered  Jenny. 

When  the  old  man  clumped  into  the  kitchen,  neither  of  the 
women  paid  any  attention  to  him.  His  wife  turned  the 
sausages,  and  Jenny  was  gathering  up  her  wreaths.  Jonas 
let  himself  down  into  a  chair,  and  looked  at  them  uneasily. 
Jenny  laid  down  her  wreaths.  "  Goin'  to  stay  to  breakfast  ?" 
said  the  old  man. 

"  Well,  I  dunno,"  replied  Jenny.  "  Them  sassages  do 
smell  temptin'." 

All  Jonas's  solemnity  had  vanished,  he  looked  foolish 
and  distressed. 

"  Do  take  off  your  hood,  Jenny,"  urged  Betsey.  "  I  ain't 
very  fond  of  sassages  myself,  an'  I'd  jest  as  liv's  you'd  have 
my  cake  as  not." 

Jenny  laughed  broadly  and  good-naturedly,  and  began 


gathering. up  her  wreaths  again.  "Lor',  I  don't  want  your 
sassage-cake,"  said  she.  "  I've  had  my  breakfast  I'm 
goin'  down  to  the  village  to  sell  my  wreaths." 

Jonas's  face  lit  up.  "Pleasant  day,  ain't  it?"  he  re 
marked,  affably. 

Jenny  grew  sober.  "  I  don't  think  it's  a  very  pleasant 
day;  guess  you  wouldn't  if  you  was  a  woodpecker  or  a 
blue-jay,"  she  replied. 

Jonas  looked  at  her  with  stupid  inquiry. 

"  They  can't  git  no  breakfast,"  said  Jenny.  "  They  can't 
git  through  the  ice  on  the  trees.  They'll  starve  if  there 
ain't  a  thaw  pretty  soon.  I've  got  to  buy  'em  somethin' 
down  to  the  store.  I'm  goin'  to  feed  a  few  of  'em.  I  ain't 
goin'  to  see  'em  dyin'  in  my  door-yard  if  I  can  help  it. 
I've  given  'em  all  I  could  spare  from  my  own  birds  this 

"It's  too  bad,  ain't  it?" 

"I  think  it's  too  bad.  I  was  goin'  to  buy  me  a  new 
caliker  dress  if  this  freeze  hadn't  come,  but  I  can't  now. 
What  it  would  cost  will  save  a  good  many  lives.  Well,  I've 
got  to  hurry  along  if  I'm  goin'  to  git  back  to-day." 

Jenny,  surrounded  with  her  trailing  masses  of  green,  had 
to  edge  herself  through  the  narrow  doorway.  She  went 
straight  to  the  village  and  peddled  her  wares  from  house  to 
house.  She  had  her  regular  customers.  Every  year,  the 
week  before  Christmas,  she  came  down  from  the  mountain 
with  her  evergreens.  She  was  popularly  supposed  to  earn 
quite  a  sum  of  money  in  that  way.  In  the  summer  she 
sold  vegetables,  but  the  green  Christmas  traffic  was  re 
garded  as  her  legitimate  business — it  had  given  her  her 
name  among  the  villagers.  However,  the  fantastic  name 
may  have  arisen  from  the  popular  conception  of  Jenny's 


character.  She  also  was  considered  somewhat  fantastic,  al 
though  there  was  no  doubt  of  her  sanity.  In  her  early 
youth  she  had  had  an  unfortunate  love  affair,  that  was  sup 
posed  to  have  tinctured  her  whole  life  with  an  alien  ele 
ment.  "  Love-cracked,"  people  called  her. 

"  Christmas  Jenny's  kind  of  love-cracked,"  they  said. 
She  was  Christmas  Jenny  in  midsummer,  when  she  came 
down  the  mountain  laden  with  green  peas  and  string-beans 
and  summer  squashes. 

She  owned  a  little  house  and  a  few  acres  of  cleared  land 
on  the  mountain,  and  in  one  way  or  another  she  picked  up 
a  living  from  it. 

It  was  noon  to-day  before  she  had  sold  all  her  evergreens 
and  started  up  the  mountain  road  for  home.  She  had  laid 
in  a  small  stock  of  provisions,  and  she  carried  them  in  the 
basket  which  had  held  the  little  bunches  of  life-everlasting 
and  amaranth  flowers  and  dried  grasses. 

The  road  wound  along  the  base  of  the  mountain.  She 
had  to  follow  it  about  a  mile ;  then  she  struck  into  a  cart- 
path  which  led  up  to  the  clearing  where  her  house  was. 

After  she  passed  Jonas  Carey's  there  were  no  houses  and 
no  people,  but  she  met  many  living  things  that  she  knew. 
A  little  field-mouse,  scratching  warily  from  cover  to  cover, 
lest  his  enemies  should  spy  him,  had  appreciative  notice 
from  Jenny  Wrayne.  She  turned  her  head  at  the  call  of  a 
jay,  and  she  caught  a  glimmer  of  blue  through  the  dazzling 
white  boughs.  She  saw  with  sympathetic  eyes  a  wood 
pecker  drumming  on  the  ice-bound  trunk  of  a  tree.  Now 
and  then  she  scattered,  with  regretful  sparseness,  some 
seeds  and  crumbs  from  her  parcels. 

At  the  point  where  she  left  the  road  for  the  cart-path 
there  was  a  gap  in  the  woods,  and  a  clear  view  of  the  vil- 


lage  below.  She  stopped  and  looked  back  at  it.  It  was 
quite  a  large  village ;  over  it  hung  a  spraying  net-work  of 
frosty  branches  ;  the  smoke  arose  straight  up  from  the 
chimneys.  Down  in  the  village  street  a  girl  and  a  young 
man  were  walking,  talking  about  her,  but  she  did  not  know 

The  girl  was  the  minister's  daughter.  She  had  just  be 
come  engaged  to  the  young  man,  and  was  walking  with  him 
in  broad  daylight  with  a  kind  of  shamefaced  pride.  When 
ever  they  met  anybody  she  blushed,  and  at  the  same  time 
held  up  her  head  proudly,  and  swung  one  arm  with  an  airy 
motion.  She  chattered  glibly  and  quite  loudly,  to  cover  her 

"  Yes,"  she  said,  in  a  sweet,  crisp  voice,  "  Christmas 
Jenny  has  just  been  to  the  house,  and  we've  bought  some 
wreaths.  We're  going  to  hang  them  in  all  the  front  win 
dows.  Mother  didn't  know  as  we  ought  to  buy  them  of  her, 
there's  so  much  talk,  but  I  don't  believe  a  word  of  it,  for  my 

"  What  talk  ?"  asked  the  young  man.  He  held  himself 
very  stiff  and  straight,  and  never  turned  his  head  when  he 
shot  swift,  smiling  glances  at  the  girl's  pink  face. 

"  Why,  don't  you  know  ?  It's  town-talk.  They  say  she's 
got  a  lot  of  birds  and  rabbits  and  things  shut  up  in  cages, 
and  half  starves  them  •  and  then  that  little  deaf-and-dumb 
boy,  you  know — they  say  she  treats  him  dreadfully.  They're 
going  to  look  into  it.  Father  and  Deacon  Little  are  going 
up  there  this  week." 

"Are  they?"  said  the  young  man.  He  was  listening  to 
the  girl's  voice  with  a  sort  of  rapturous  attention,  but  he  had 
little  idea  as  to  what  she  was  saying.  As  they  walked,  they 
faced  the  mountain. 


It  was  only  the  next  day  when  the  minister  and  Deacon 
Little  made  the  visit.  They  started  up  a  flock  of  sparrows 
that  were  feeding  by  Jenny's  door ;  but  the  birds  did  not 
fly  very  far — they  settled  into  a  tree  and  watched.  Jenny's 
house  was  hardly  more  than  a  weather-beaten  hut,  but  there 
was  a  grape-vine  trained  over  one  end,  and  the  front  yard 
was  tidy.  Just  before  the  house  stood  a  tall  pine-tree. 
At  the  rear,  and  on  the  right,  stretched  the  remains  of 
Jenny's  last  summer's  garden,  full  of  plough -ridges  and 
glistening  corn-stubble. 

Jenny  was  not  at  home.  The  minister  knocked  and  got 
no  response.  Finally  he  lifted  the  latch,  and  the  two  men 
walked  in.  The  room  seemed  gloomy  after  the  brilliant 
light  outside  ;  they  could  not  see  anything  at  first,  but  they 
could  hear  a  loud  and  demonstrative  squeaking  and  chirp 
ing  and  twittering  that  their  entrance  appeared  to  excite. 

At  length  a  small  pink-and-white  face  cleared  out  of  the 
gloom  in  the  chimney-corner.  It  surveyed  the  visitors  with 
no  fear  nor  surprise,  but  seemingly  with  an  innocent  amia 

"  That's  the  little  deaf-and-dumb  boy,"  said  the  minister, 
in  a  subdued  voice.  The  minister  was  an  old  man,  narrow- 
shouldered,  and  clad  in  long-waisted  and  wrinkly  black. 
Deacon  Little  reared  himself  in  his  sinewy  leanness  until  his 
head  nearly  touched  the  low  ceiling.  His  face  was  sallow 
and  severely  corrugated,  but  the  features  were  handsome. 

Both  stood  staring  remorselessly  at  the  little  deaf-and- 
dumb  boy,  who  looked  up  in  their  faces  with  an  expression 
of  delicate  wonder  and  amusement.  The  little  boy  was 
dressed  like  a  girl,  in  a  long  blue  gingham  pinafore.  He 
sat  in  the  midst  of  a  heap  of  evergreens,  which  he  had  been 
twining  into  wreaths ;  his  pretty,  soft,  fair  hair  was  damp, 


and  lay  in  a  very  flat  and  smooth  scallop  over  his  full  white 

"  He  looks  as  if  he  was  well  cared  for,"  said  Deacon 
Little.  Both  men  spoke  in  hushed  tones — it  was  hard  for 
them  to  realize  that  the  boy  could  not  hear,  the  more  so  be 
cause  every  time  their  lips  moved  his  smile  deepened.  He 
was  not  in  the  least  afraid. 

They  moved  around  the  room  half  guiltily,  and  surveyed 
everything.  It  was  unlike  any  apartment  that  they  had  ever 
entered.  It  had  a  curious  sylvan  air ;  there  were  heaps 
of  evergreens  here  and  there,  and  some  small  green  trees 
leaned  in  one  corner.  All  around  the  room — hung  on  the 
walls,  standing  on  rude  shelves — were  little  rough  cages  and 
hutches,  from  which  the  twittering  and  chirping  sounded. 
They  contained  forlorn  little  birds  and  rabbits  and  field- 
mice.  The  birds  had  rough  feathers  and  small,  dejected 
heads,  one  rabbit  had  an  injured  leg,  one  field-mouse  seemed 
nearly  dead.  The  men  eyed  them  sharply.  The  minister 
drew  a  sigh ;  the  deacon's  handsome  face  looked  harder. 
But  they  did  not  say  what  they  thought,  on  account  of  the 
little  deaf-and-dumb  boy,  whose  pleasant  blue  eyes  never 
left  their  faces.  When  they  had  made  the  circuit  of  the 
room,  and  stood  again  by  the  fireplace,  he  suddenly  set  up 
a  cry.  It  was  wild  and  inarticulate,  still  not  wholly  dis 
sonant,  and  it  seemed  to  have  a  meaning  of  its  own.  It 
united  with  the  cries  of  the  little  caged  wild  creatures,  and 
it  was  all  like  a  soft  clamor  of  eloquent  appeal  to  the  two 
visitors,  but  they  could  not  understand  it. 

They  stood  solemn  and  perplexed  by  the  fireplace. 
"  Had  we  better  wait  till  she  comes  ?"  asked  the  minister. 

"  I  don't  know,"  said  Deacon  Little. 

Back  of  them  arose  the  tall  mantel-shelf.     On  it  were  a 


clock  and  a  candlestick,  and  regularly  laid  bunches  of  brill 
iant  dried  flowers,  all  ready  for  Jenny  to  put  in  her  basket 
and  sell. 

Suddenly  there  was  a  quick  scrape  on  the  crusty  snow 
outside,  the  door  flew  open,  and  Jonas  Carey's  wife  came  in. 
She  had  her  shawl  over  her  head,  and  she  was  panting  for 

She  stood  before  the  two  men,  and  a  sudden  crust  of  shy 
formality  seemed  to  form  over  her.  "  Good-arternoon," 
she  said,  in  response  to  their  salutations. 

She  looked  at  them  for  a  moment,  and  tightened  her 
shawl-pin ;  then  the  restraint  left  her.  "  I  knowed  you 
was  here,"  she  cried,  in  her  weak,  vehement  voice ;  "  I 
knowed  it.  I've  heerd  the  talk.  I  knowed  somebody  was 
goin'  to  come  up  here  an'  spy  her  out.  I  was  in  Mis' 
Gregg's  the  other  day,  an'  her  husband  came  home ;  he'd 
been  down  to  the  store,  an'  he  said  they  were  talkin'  'bout 
Jenny,  an'  sayin'  she  didn't  treat  Willy  and  the  birds  well, 
an'  the  town  was  goin'  to  look  into  it.  I  knowed  you  was 
comin'  up  here  when  I  seed  you  go  by.  I  told  Jonas  so. 
An'  I  knowed  she  wa'n't  to  home,  an'  there  wa'n't  nothin' 
here  that  could  speak,  an'  I  told  Jonas  I  was  comin'.  I 
couldn't  stan'  it  nohow.  It's  dreadful  slippery.  I  had 
to  go  on  my  hands  an'  knees  in  some  places,  an'  I've  sot 
down  twice,  but  I  don't  care.  I  ain't  goin'  to  have  you 
comin'  up  here  to  spy  on  Jenny,  an'  nobody  to  home  that's 
got  any  tongue  to  speak  for  her." 

Mrs.  Carey  stood  before  them  like  a  ruffled  and  defiant 
bird  that  was  frighting  herself  as  well  as  them  with  her 
temerity.  She  palpitated  all  over,  but  there  was  a  fierce 
look  in  her  dim  blue  eyes. 

The  minister  began  a  deprecating   murmur,  which  the 


deacon  drowned.  "  You  can  speak  for  her  all  you  want 
to,  Mrs.  Carey,"  said  he.  "  We  ain't  got  any  objections  to 
hearin'  it.  An'  we  didn't  know  but  what  she  was  home. 
Do  you  know  what  she  does  with  these  birds  and  things  ?" 

"  Does  with  'em  ?  Well,  I'll  tell  you  what  she  does  with 
'em.  She  picks  'em  up  in  the  woods  when  they're  starvin' 
an'  freezin'  an'  half  dead,  an'  she  brings  'em  in  here,  an' 
takes  care  of  'em  an'  feeds  'em  till  they  git  well,  an'  then 
she  lets  'em  go  again.  That's  what  she  does.  You  see 
that  rabbit  there  ?  Well,  he's  been  in  a  trap.  Somebody 
wanted  to  kill  the  poor  little  cretur.  You  see  that  robin? 
Somebody  fired  a  gun  at  him  an'  broke  his  wing. 

"That's  what  she  does.  I  dunno  but  it  'mounts  to  jest 
about  as  much  as  sendin'  money  to  missionaries.  I  dunno 
but  what  bein'  a  missionary  to  robins  an'  starvin'  chippies 
an'  little  deaf-an'-dumb  children  is  jest  as  good  as  some  other 
kinds,  an'  that's  what  she  is. 

"  I  ain't  afeard  to  speak  ;  I'm  goin'  to  tell  the  whole  story. 
I  dunno  what  folks  mean  by  talkin'  about  her  the  way  they 
do.  There,  she  took  that  little  dumbie  out  of  the  poor- 
house.  Nobody  else  wanted  him.  He  don't  look  as  if  he 
was  abused  very  bad,  far's  I  can  see.  She  keeps  him  jest  as 
nice  an'  neat  as  she  can,  an'  he  an'  the  birds  has  enough  to 
eat,  if  she  don't  herself. 

"  I  guess  I  know  'bout  it.  Here  she  is  goin'  without  a 
new  caliker  dress,  so's  to  git  somethin'  for  them  birds  that 
can't  git  at  the  trees,  'cause  there's  so  much  ice  on  'em. 

"You  can't  tell  me  nothin'.  When  Jonas  has  one  of  his 
tantrums  she  can  git  him  out  of  it  quicker'n  anybody  I 
ever  see.  She  ain't  goin'  to  be  talked  about  and  spied  upon 
if  I  can  help  it.  They  tell  about  her  bein'  love-cracked. 
H'm.  I  dunno  what  they  call  love-cracked.  I  know  that  An- 


derson  fellar  went  off  an'  married  another  girl,  when  Jenny 
jest  as  much  expected  to  have  him  as  could  be.  He 
ought  to  ha'  been  strung  up.  But  I  know  one  thing — if  she 
did  git  kind  of  twisted  out  of  the  reg'lar  road  of  lovin',  she's 
in  another  one,  that's  full  of  little  dumbies  an'  starvin'  chip 
pies  an'  lame  rabbits,  an'  she  ain't  love-cracked  no  more'n 
other  folks." 

Mrs.  Carey,  carried  away  by  affection  and  indignation,  al 
most  spoke  in  poetry.  Her  small  face  glowed  pink,  her  blue 
eyes  were  full  of  fire,  she  waved  her  arms  under  her  shawl. 
The  little  meek  old  woman  was  a  veritable  enthusiast. 

The  two  men  looked  at  each  other.  The  deacon's  hand 
some  face  was  as  severe  and  grave  as  ever,  but  he  waited 
for  the  minister  to  speak.  When  the  minister  did  speak 
it  was  apologetically.  He  was  a  gentle  old  man,  and  the 
deacon  was  his  mouthpiece  in  matters  of  parish  discipline. 
If  he  failed  him  he  betrayed  how  feeble  and  kindly  a  pipe 
was  his  own.  He  told  Mrs.  Carey  that  he  did  not  doubt 
everything  was  as  it  should  be ;  he  apologized  for  their 
presence ;  he  praised  Christmas  Jenny.  Then  he  and  the 
deacon  retreated.  They  were  thankful  to  leave  that  small, 
vociferous  old  woman,  who  seemed  to  be  pulling  herself  up 
by  her  enthusiasm  until  she  reached  the  air  over  their 
heads,  and  became  so  abnormal  that  she  was  frightful.  In 
deed,  everything  out  of  the  broad,  common  track  was  a 
horror  to  these  men  and  to  many  of  their  village  fellows. 
Strange  shadows,  that  their  eyes  could  not  pierce,  lay  upon 
such,  and  they  were  suspicious.  The  popular  sentiment 
against  Jenny  Wrayne  was  originally  the  outcome  of  this 
characteristic,  which  was  a  remnant  of  the  old  New  Eng 
land  witchcraft  superstition.  More  than  anything  else, 
Jenny's  eccentricity,  her  possibly  uncanny  deviation  from 


the  ordinary  ways  of  life,  had  brought  this  inquiry  upon 
her.  In  actual  meaning,  although  not  even  in  self-acknowl 
edgment,  it  was  a  witch-hunt  that  went  up  the  mountain  road 
that  December  afternoon. 

They  hardly  spoke  on  the  way.  Once  the  minister 
turned  to  the  deacon.  "  I  rather  think  there's  no  occasion 
for  interference,"  he  said,  hesitatingly. 

"  I  guess  there  ain't  any  need  of  it,"  answered  the  deacon. 

The  deacon  spoke  again  when  they  had  nearly  reached 
his  own  house.  "  I  guess  I'll  send  her  up  a  little  somethin' 
Christmas,"  said  he.  Deacon  Little  was  a  rich  man. 

"  Maybe  it  would  be  a  good  idea,"  returned  the  minister. 
"  I'll  see  what  I  can  do." 

Christmas  was  one  week  from  that  day.  On  Christmas 
morning  old  Jonas  Carey  and  his  wife,  dressed  in  their 
best  clothes,  started  up  the  mountain  road  to  Jenny 
Wrayne's.  Old  Jonas  wore  his  great-coat,  and  had  his 
wife's  cashmere  scarf  wound  twice  around  his  neck.  Mrs. 
Carey  wore  her  long  shawl  and  her  best  bonnet.  They 
walked  along  quite  easily.  The  ice  was  all  gone  now ; 
there  had  been  a  light  fall  of  snow  the  day  before,  but  it 
was  not  shoe-deep.  The  snow  was  covered  with  the  little 
tracks  of  Jenny's  friends,  the  birds  and  the  field-mice  and 
the  rabbits,  in  pretty  zigzag  lines. 

Jonas  Carey  and  his  wife  walked  along  comfortably  until 
they  reached  the  cart-path,  then  the  old  man's  shoestring 
became  loose,  and  he  tripped  over  it.  He  stooped  and 
tied  it  laboriously;  then  he  went  on.  Pretty  soon  he 
stopped  again.  His  wife  looked  back.  "  What's  the  mat 
ter?"  said  she. 

"  Shoestring  untied,"  replied  old  Jonas,  in  a  half  inarticu 
late  grunt. 


"  Don't  you  want  me  to  tie  it,  Jonas  ?" 

Jonas  said  nothing  more ;  he  tied  viciously. 

They  were  in  sight  of  Jenny's  house  when  he  stopped 
again,  and  sat  down  on  the  stone  wall  beside  the  path. 
"  Oh,  Jonas,  what  is  the  matter  ?" 

Jonas  made  no  reply.  His  wife  went  up  to  him,  and  saw 
that  the  shoestring  was  loose  again.  "  Oh,  Jonas,  do  let 
me  tie  it ;  I'd  just  as  soon  as  not.  Sha'n't  I,  Jonas?" 

Jonas  sat  there  in  the  midst  of  the  snowy  blackberry 
vines,  and  looked  straight  ahead  with  a  stony  stare. 

His  wife  began  to  cry.  "  Oh,  Jonas,"  she  pleaded,  "  don't 
you  have  a  tantrum  to-day.  Sha'n't  I  tie  it  ?  I'll  tie  it  real 
strong.  Oh,  Jonas !" 

The  old  woman  fluttered  around  the  old  man  in  his  great 
coat  on  the  wall,  like  a  distressed  bird  around  her  mate. 
Jenny  Wrayne  opened  her  door  and  looked  out ;  then  she 
came  down  the  path.  "  What's  the  matter  ?"  she  asked. 

"Oh,  Jenny,  I  dunno  what  to  do.  He's  got  another — 
tantrum  !" 

"  Has  he  fell  down  ?" 

"  No ;  that  ain't  it.  His  shoestring's  come  untied  three 
times,  an'  he  don't  like  it,  an'  he's  sot  down  on  the  wall.  I 
dunno  but  he'll  set  there  all  day.  Oh,  dear  me  suz,  when 
we'd  got  most  to  your  house,  an'  1  was  jest  thinkin'  we'd 
come  'long  real  comfort'ble !  I  want  to  tie  it  for  him,  but 
he  won't  let  me,  an'  I  don't  darse  to  when  he  sets  there 
like  that.  Oh,  Jonas,  jest  let  me  tie  it,  won't  you?  I'll  tie 
it  real  nice  an'  strong,  so  it  won't  undo  again." 

Jenny  caught  hold  of  her  arm.  "Come  right  into  the 
house,"  said  she,  in  a  hearty  voice.  She  quite  turned  her 
back  upon  the  figure  on  the  wall. 

"  Oh.  Jenny,  I  can't  go  in  an'  leave  him  a-settin'  there. 


I  shouldn't  wonder  if  he  sot  there  all  day.  You  don't 
know  nothin*  about  it.  Sometimes  I  have  to  stan'  an' 
argue  with  him  for  hours  afore  he'll  stir." 

"  Come  right  in.  The  turkey's  most  done,  an'  we'll  set 
right  down  as  soon  as  'tis.  It's  'bout  the  fattest  turkey  I 
ever  see.  I  dunno  where  Deacon  Little  could  ha'  got  it. 
The  plum-puddin's  all  done,  an'  the  vegetables  is  'most 
ready  to  take  up.  Come  right  in,  an'  we'll  have  dinner  in 
less  than  half  an  hour." 

After  the  two  women  had  entered  the  house  the  figure 
on  the  wall  cast  an  uneasy  glance  at  it  without  turning 
his  head.  He  sniffed  a  little. 

It  was  quite  true  that  he  could  smell  the  roasting  turkey, 
and  the  turnip  and  onions,  out  there. 

In  the  house,  Mrs.  Carey  laid  aside  her  bonnet  and 
shawl,  and  put  them  on  the  bed  in  Jenny's  little  bedroom. 
A  Christmas  present,  a  new  calico  dress,  which  Jenny  had 
received  the  night  before,  lay  on  the  bed  also.  Jenny  showed 
it  with  pride.  "  It's  that  chocolate  color  I've  always  liked," 
said  she.  "  I  don't  see  what  put  it  into  their  heads." 

"  It's  real  handsome,"  said  Mrs.  Carey.  She  had  not 
told  Jenny  about  her  visitors ;  but  she  was  not  used  to 
keeping  a  secret,  and  her  possession  of  one  gave  a  curious 
expression  to  her  face.  However,  Jenny  did  not  notice  it. 
She  hurried  about  preparing  dinner.  The  stove  was  cov 
ered  with  steaming  pots ;  the  turkey  in  the  oven  could 
be  heard  sizzling.  The  little  deaf-and-dumb  boy  sat  in 
his  chimney-corner,  and  took  long  sniffs.  He  watched 
Jenny,  and  regarded  the  stove  in  a  rapture,  or  he  exam 
ined  some  treasures  that  he  held  in  his  lap.  There  were 
picture-books  and  cards,  and  boxes  of  candy,  and  oranges. 
He  held  them  all  tightly  gathered  into  his  pinafore.  The 


little  caged  wild  things  twittered  sweetly  and  pecked  at 
their  food.  Jenny  laid  the  table  with  the  best  table 
cloth  and  her  mother's  flowered  china.  The  mountain 
farmers,  of  whom  Jenny  sprang,  had  had  their  little  de 
cencies  and  comforts,  and  there  were  china  and  a  linen 
table-cloth  for  a  Christmas  dinner,  poor  as  the  house  was. 

Mrs.  Carey  kept  peering  uneasily  out  of  the  window  at 
her  husband  on  the  stone  wall. 

"  If  you  want  him  to  come  in  you'll  keep  away  from 
the  window,"  said  Jenny ;  and  the  old  woman  settled  into  a 
chair  near  the  stove. 

Very  soon  the  door  opened,  and  Jonas  came  in.  Jenny 
was  bending  over  the  potato  kettle,  and  she  did  not  look 
around.  "  You  can  put  his  great-coat  on  the  bed,  if  you've 
a  mind  to,  Mrs.  Carey,"  said  she. 

Jonas  got  out  of  his  coat,  and  sat  down  with  sober 
dignity ;  he  had  tied  his  shoestring  very  neatly  and  firmly. 
After  a  while  he  looked  over  at  the  little  deaf-and-dumb 
boy,  who  was  smiling  at  him,  and  he  smiled  back  again. 

The  Careys  stayed  until  evening.  Jenny  set  her  candle 
in  the  window  to  light  them  down  the  cart-path.  Down 
in  the  village  the  minister's  daughter  and  her  betrothed 
were  out  walking  to  the  church,  where  there  was  a  Christ 
mas-tree.  It  was  quite  dark.  She  clung  closely  to  his 
arm,  and  once  in  a  while  her  pink  cheek  brushed  his 
sleeve.  The  stars  were  out,  many  of  them,  and  more 
were  coming.  One  seemed  suddenly  to  flash  out  on  the 
dark  side  of  the  mountain. 

"There's  Christmas  Jenny's  candle,"  said  the  girl.  And 
it  was  Christmas  Jenny's  candle,  but  it  was  also  something 
more.  Like  all  common  things,  it  had,  and  was,  its  own 
poem,  and  that  was — a  Christmas  star. 


A    POT    OF    GOLD. 

THE  moon  came  up  over  the  mountain,  and  suddenly  the 
shadows  of  the  trees  grew  darker  and  more  distinct.  There 
were  four  great  elm-trees  in  the  Amesbury  yard.  Over 
across  the  road  was  a  cemetery ;  back  of  that  flowed  the 
river ;  on  the  opposite  bank  of  the  river  arose  the  mountain. 
The  mountain  was  wooded  to  its  summit.  There  were 
patches  of  silver  on  it,  where  some  of  the  tree-tops  waved 
in  the  moonlight. 

Jonas  Amesbury  and  his  mother  sat  on  the  door-step ; 
neither  of  them  noticed  the  beautiful  moonlight  night  much. 
Once  the  old  woman  remarked  that  the  moon  made  it  as 
bright  as  day,  and  Jonas  did  not  even  trouble  himself  to  as 

Jonas  looked  hardly  more  than  a  boy ;  his  curly  head 
had  the  blond  lightness  of  a  baby's ;  his  round  face  was 
smooth  and  delicate.  He  sat  on  the  lower  door-stone,  rest 
ing  his  elbows  on  his  knees  ;  his  mother,  a  dark,  sallow 
figure,  sat  on  the  upper  one.  She  held  herself  rigidly,  and 
did  not  lean  against  the  door-casing.  She  was  very  tired, 
but  her  will  would  not  let  her  old  bones  and  muscles  relax. 
Jane  Amesbury  never  "  lopped,"  as  she  termed  it.  She  was, 
in  her  way,  a  student  of  human  nature  and  a  philosopher. 
She  divided  women  into  two  classes  :  those  who  "  lopped  " 

A  POT  OF  GOLD.  x^ 

and  those  who  did  not.  "  I  wa'n't  never  one  of  the  kind 
that  lop,"  she  used  to  say,  with  a  backward  lift  of  her  head 
so  forcible  that  it  seemed  as  if  her  neck  muscles  were  made 
of  steel,  and  one  listened  for  the  click,  "  an'  I  ain't  never 
thought  much  of  them  women  that  do  lop." 

One  looking  at  her  easily  realized  the  truth  of  the  state 
ment.  Old  as  she  was  now,  it  was  quite  evident  that  Jane 
Amesbury  had  no  more  leaning  necessity  than  a  hardy 
tree  over  on  the  mountain.  She  required  for  her  growth 
and  support  only  a  rude,  stanch  soil  and  a  sky. 

Her  son  Jonas  seemed  different ;  still,  he  had  something 
of  his  mother's  character.  It  was  evident  in  a  certain  dig 
nity  and  self-restraint  with  which  he  bore  himself  to-night. 
He  was  very  unhappy.  His  mother  was  looking  down 
upon  him  with  tenderness  and  a  kind  of  indignation.  They 
had  been  silent  for  quite  a  while  ;  when  the  moon  arose  it 
seemed  a  signal  to  them.  It  was  with  Jonas  as  if  the 
shadows  in  his  own  soul  deepened  out,  and  it  seemed  as  if 
his  mother  also  saw  them,  for  she  began  at  once :  "  There 
ain't  no  use  talkin'  'bout  it,"  said  she ;  "  there  ain't  no 
sense  in  a  fellar's  settin'  right  down  an'  givin'  up,  'cause  he 
can't  git  one  particular  girl.  Marryin'  ain't  everything  there 
is  in  the  world  nohow,  if  folks  do  act  as  if  'twas.  Folks 
act  like  poor  fools  sometimes.  I  guess  I  know." 

The  old  woman  gave  her  head  a  shake  of  rage  and  wis 
dom.  Jonas  said  nothing.  His  face,  in  the  moonlight,  looked 
as  fair  and  pretty  as  a  girl's. 

Presently  his  mother  began  again ;  she  seemed  to  have 
a  subtle  ear  for  her  son's  thoughts,  and  to  answer  them  like 
spoken  arguments. 

"  I  know  she's  a  good-lookin'  girl  'nough,"  said  she,  "  an* 
she's  smart  'nough.  I  dun  know  as  there  is  anybody  'round 

x8o  A  POT  OF  GOLD. 

here  that  quite  comes  up  to  her;  but  that  don't  make  no 
difference.  Looks  ain't  everything,  an'  smartness  ain't 
everything.  There's  plenty  of  girls  that's  good  'nough,  if 
they  can't  tear  the  airth  up  or  set  the  river  on  fire.  These 
dretful  smart,  handsome  folks  are  just  the  ones  that  flax  out 
sometimes.  They  ain't  nothin'  more'n  Fourth  of  July  fire 
works;  there's  more  sputter  an'  fizzle  than  anything  else 
when  you  come  to  find  out.  I  don't  think  I  should  give  up 
eatin'  an'  sleepin',  an'  go  round  lookin'  as  if  I'd  lost  my  last 
friend,  on  account  of  one  girl,  when  there's  plenty  more  that 
would  have  me.  There's  Emma  Jane  Monk — " 

Then  the  young  man  aroused  himself.  "  I  guess,"  said  he, 
"when  you  see  me  going  with  Emma  Jane  Monk  you'll 
know  it." 

"Well,  you  can  turn  up  your  nose  at  Emma  Jane  Monk 
all  you  want  to ;  she's  as  good  as  Rose  Tenney  any  day." 

"  Mother !" 

"What  is  it?" 

"  You  can  talk  all  you  want  to,  but  it  ain't  going  to  do 
any  good.  I  suppose  I  ain't  showing  much  spunk  about  it, 
and  I  know  it  ain't  any  worse  for  me  than  for  other  folks, 
and  I  ain't  the  first  one  that  couldn't  get  the  one  he  wanted. 
But  I  can't  bear  it,  and  I  ain't  going  to ;  that's  all  there  is 
about  it." 

"  What  you  goin'  to  do  ?"  asked  his  mother,  in  a  stern  voice 
that  had  in  it  a  frightened  inflection. 

"  I  don't  know  any  more  than  a  tree  in  the  wind.  I 
ain't  doing  anything ;  I'm  being  done  with." 

"  Jonas  Amesbury,  you  make  me  mad  talkin'  such  stuff. 
I  don't  see  where  you  got  such  notions ;  for  my  part  I  know 
you  didn't  git  'em  from  me.  Rose  Tenney — h'm  !  S'pose 
she  does  curl  her  hair  over  her  forehead,  an'  wear  her  dresses 

A  POT  OF  GOLD.  !8i 

all  girt  in  round  her  waist,  an'  act  so  dreadful  soft  an7  sweet ! 
her  folks  ain't  much,  an'  everybody  knows  it;  everybody 
knows  what  old  Joe  Tenney  is — stole  all  that  land  that  be 
longed  to  his  brother ;  everybody  knowed  he  did  it,  if  they 
couldn't  prove  it.  I  don't  think  Rose  Tenney's  got  so  very 
much  to  brag  of  nohow." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  good  you  think  it  does  talking 
that  way,  mother  ?" 

"  Oh,  I  don't  s'pose  it  does  any  good.  I  s'pose  if  all  Rose 
Tenney's  relations  were  strung  up  on  the  gallows  in  a  row, 
you'd  want  her  just  the  same." 

"  Yes,  I  would,"  said  Jonas,  in  a  fervent  tone,  tossing  back 
his  head  like  his  mother,  with  a  defiant  air.  He  could  fancy 
himself  wedding  Rose  under  the  shadow  of  her  swinging 
relatives,  and  see  nothing  ridiculous ;  he  was  in  such  an  in 
tense  mood  that  humor  was  entirely  barred  out. 

"  Yes,  I  s'pose  you  would  ;  it  would  be  just  like  you,'*  re 
turned  his  mother,  sarcastically.  Then  she  arose.  "  Well, 
I'm  goin'  in  to  set  the  bread  a-risin',"  said  she.  "  I  s'pose 
the  bread  might  jest  as  well  be  riz,  if  you  can't  git  Rose 

Jonas  did  not  reply;  he  got  up  and  went  strolling  off 
across  the  yard.  His  mother  entered  the  house — the  door 
opened  directly  into  the  kitchen.  It  was  dark  except  for  the 
moonlight.  Jane  spoke  as  she  stepped  over  the  threshold. 

"You  there?"  said  she. 

"  Yes." 

"Where  be  yer?" 

"  Over  here  by  the  winder." 

"  Oh,  yes,  I  see  yer." 

Jane  stepped  over  to  the  window,  where  another  womaa 
was  sitting,  and  peered  out  into  the  yard. 

!82  A  POT  OF  GOLD. 

"  He's  gone  out  of  the  yard,"  said  the  sitting  woman. 

"You  don't  s'pose  he's  goin'  down  there,  do  ye?" 

"No ;  he  headed  up  the  other  way.     I  see  him." 

Jane  then  sat  down  in  a  chair  near  the  other  woman, 
who  was  her  unmarried  sister.  Her  name  was  Elvira  Slaw- 
son.  Elvira  was  ten  years  younger  than  her  sister ;  her 
blond  hair  was  scarcely  gray  ;  she  wore  it  in  twisted  loops 
over  her  ears ;  she  was  tall  and  thin,  and  her  clothes  were 
so  loose  that  all  her  outlines  seemed  wavering ;  one  shoul 
der  was  a  little  higher  than  the  other;  she  had  a  slow,  high- 
pitched  voice. 

Jane  looked  at  her ;  she  was  in  the  shadow  herself.  "  I 
s'pose  you  heard  me  talkin'  to  him,  didn't  ye  ?"  she  re 

"  I  heard  a  little  on't ;  I  couldn't  help  it.  I  was  settin' 
right  here." 

"Well,  I  dun  know  what  he's  goin'  to  do.  I  think  it's  a 
pretty  piece  of  work,  for  my  part." 

"You  don't  s'pose  he'll  do  anything  desprit,  do  ye?" 

"  Desprit  ? — no.  If  he  does,  I'll  shake  him.  Desprit !  I 
ain't  got  no  patience  with  sech  kind  of  work.  Ready  to 
pull  the  house  down,  'bout  a  girl.  I  s'pose  it's  what  they 
call — love!  H'm  !  it's  'nough  to  make  anybody  sick! 
Love!"  Jane's  voice  as  she  said  "love"  had  a  contempt 
uous  drawl. 

Elvira,  with  her  head  gently  inclined  to  one  side,  looked 
doubtfully  at  her  sister.  Being  supposed  to  have  no  ac 
quaintance  with  love,  she  had  more  respect  for  him.  "  Well, 
I  s'pose  men  do  pretty  desprit  things  sometimes  on  account 
of  love,"  she  said,  in  a  shamefaced  way.  She  was  exceed 
ingly  timid  about  alluding  to  such  matters  before  her  sister. 

"Desprit  things!     Well,  I  s'pose  some  that's  poor  fools 

A  POT  OF  GOLD.  ^3 

do,  an'  I  guess  it's  good  riddance  to  'em.  Folks  that  can't 
see  nothin'  in  this  world  but  the  one  sugar-plum  they  ain't 
able  to  git  had  better  git  out  of  it.  Love!" 

Jane  arose ;  she  went  to  the  shelf  and  struck  a  match. 
"  Coin'  to  mix  up  bread  ?"  asked  her  sister. 

"Yes,  I  s'pose  so.  I  thought  I'd  have  some  riz  biscuit 
in  the  mornin',  Jonas  thinks  so  much  of  'em ;  but  I  don't 
s'pose  he'll  tech  'em  even  if  I  make  'em.  He  ain't  eat 
enough  to-day  to  feed  a  fly." 

The  light  flared  out ;  Jane  bent  her  brows  over  it  to  see 
if  it  were  trimmed  squarely.  Then  she  went  into  the  pantry 
for  her  mixing-bowl  and  flour.  There  was  now  and  then  a 
click  as  her  heels  struck  the  floor ;  the  floor  was  worn  into 
little  hillocks,  and  the  nails  frequently  protruded ;  one  could 
see  here  and  there  one  sparkle  in  the  lamp-light.  This  was 
an  old  house  ;  the  underpinning  sagged  in  places,  and  the 
rooms  were  full  of  crooked  lines ;  not  a  door  or  window  was 

Elvira  watched  her  sister  mix  the  bread.  Jane  did  not 
lose  a  grain  of  flour  in  the  process  ;  her  knotty  fingers  were 
deft  and  delicate  from  faithful  practice.  She  left  the  mix 
ing-bowl  polished  quite  clean  when  she  finally  deposited 
the  dough  in  the  pans.  There  was  little  treasure  in  the 
Amesbury  house,  but  none  would  be  left  clinging  to  the 
sides  of  it.  Jane  had  made  an  appendix  to  the  decalogue 
to  suit  her  own  exigencies ;  one  of  the  new  sins  was  waste 
fulness.  She  did  all  the  housework ;  she  privately  be 
lieved  Elvira  to  be  nothing  of  a  housekeeper.  Elvira 
knitted  a  great  deal  of  lace  edging,  and  she  sold  yards 
of  it  to  people  in  the  village.  She  also  furnished  a  store 
with  some.  She  had  quite  a  local  reputation  for  her  knitted 
lace,  and  was  looked  upon  somewhat  in  the  line  of  an 

184  A   POT  OF  GOLD. 

artist.  It  was  even  rumored  that  she  devised  new  patterns 
out  of  her  own  head.  Her  sister  gave  her  her  board, 
and  all  the  money  she  spent  was  the  proceeds  of  her  lace- 
making.  She  knitted  incessantly,  and  always  had  her  lace 
with  her  in  a  little  bag.  Pretty  soon  she  drew  her  chair  up 
to  the  table  where  her  sister  was  making  the  bread,  and 
drew  out  her  knitting. 

"  You  ain't  goin'  to  knittin'  to-night  ?"  remarked  Jane,  dis 

"  I'm  jest  goin'  to  make  one  scallop." 

This  lace  was  considered  Elvira's  masterpiece,  being  very 
broad  and  intricate.  She  bent  over  it,  and  knitted  with  a 
frowning  forehead.  The  light  was  not  very  good.  She  wore 

"  You  countin'  ?"  said  Jane  presently. 

"  No." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  the  hull  truth  of  it  'bout  Rose  Tenney." 

Elvira  kept  her  eyes  on  her  lace.  "  Do  you  s'pose  she 
wouldn't  have  him  ?"  she  queried,  timidly. 

"  I  dun  know ;  but  I  do  know  one  thing :  it  wa'n't  her 
fault  if  she  wouldn't.  I  know  a  thing  or  two.  I've  had  my 
eyes  open.  If  that  girl  don't  think  'nough  of  Jonas  I'll  miss 
my  guess.  I've  seen  her  when  he  was  round.  A  girl  don't 
light  up  like  a  rainbow  when  she  sees  a  fellar  comin'  if 
there  ain't  somethin'  in  the  wind.  She  thinks  'nough  of  him. 
Old  Joe  Tenney's  at  the  bottom  of  it.  He  don't  think 
there's  quite  'nough  money  here.  I  know  him.  Since  he's 
got  a  little  money  himself,  everybody  else  that  ain't  got  it 
ain't  any  more  than  the  dirt  under  his  feet.  Joe  Tenney 
always  thought  more  of  money  than  anything  else  in  the 
world.  Cheated  his  own  brother  for  the  sake  of  it.  I 
shouldn't  think  he'd  want  to  say  much." 

A   POT  OF  GOLD.  185 

Elvira  still  kept  her  eyes  upon  her  lace ;  a  red  flush 
mounted  on  her  soft,  flabby  cheeks.  "  There  didn't  nobody 
really  know  he  cheated  him,"  said  she. 

"  Yes,  they  did  know,  too,  well's  they  wanted  to.  Where 
did  the  deeds  for  that  land  go  to,  I'd  like  to  know  ?  They 
couldn't  prove  nothin',  'cause  they  wa'n't  registered,  but 
there  wa'n't  no  doubt  'bout  it." 

"  I  s'pose  he  thought  that  land  belonged  to  him  anyhow. 
You  know  they  said  he'd  lent  Henry  consider'ble  money. 
I  guess  some  thought  Henry'd  agreed  to  give  him  them 
deeds,  an'  then  backed  out." 

"  Elvira  Slawson,  if  you  want  to  stan'  up  for  old  Joe 
Tenney,  you  can.  I  should  think  you  was  'bout  old  'nough 
to  be  off  the  notion  of  that  by  this  time." 

"  I — dun  know  what  you  mean,  Jane." 

"  I  know  what  I  mean.     Well,  I  s'pose  it's— love" 

Elvira  said  no  more.  She  kept  her  meek  suffused  face 
close  to  her  lace.  It  was  quite  true  that  years  ago  there 
had  been  a  love  affair  between  herself  and  Joseph  Tenney, 
and  it  had  come  to  naught.  Her  sister  had  never  done 
twitting  her  with  it :  all  the  prickles  in  her  nature  seemed 
turned  against  sentiment,  perhaps  because  of  its  fancied 
softness,  which  made  her  indignant.  She  had  nursed 
Elvira  faithfully  through  the  severe  illness  which  her  disap 
pointment  had  brought  upon  her,  and  then  had  tried  a 
system  of  mental  cauterization  to  cure  the  wound.  Any 
symptoms  that  led  her  to  believe  the  cure  was  not  com 
plete  caused  her  to  apply  the  iron  anew.  Now  she  kept 
glancing  sharply  at  Elvira  over  her  lace  ;  her  lips  were 
compressed,  her  nose  was  elevated  sarcastically.  But  soon 
her  anxiety  over  her  son  drew  her  thoughts  away  from  her 

!86  A  POT  OF  GOLD. 

"  I  don't  see  where  he  is,"  she  said,  standing  in  the  door, 
after  the  bread  was  set  away. 

"  Mebbe  he's  gone  up  to  Jake  Hanson's/' 

"  I  don't  think  he  has,  this  time  of  night.  Oh,  there  he 

Neither  of  the  women  said  anything  to  Jonas  when  he 
entered  the  kitchen,  but  they  watched  him  furtively.  He 
went  across  the  room  to  the  mantel-shelf  and  lighted  a 
candle.  "  Goin'  to  bed  ?"  asked  his  mother  then. 

Jonas  gave  an  affirmative  grunt.  He  looked  as  if  he 
had  been  walking  fast,  his  face  was  flushed,  and  his  fair  hair 
lay  damp  and  flat  on  the  temples. 

Pretty  soon  the  women  heard  his  steps  on  the  stairs. 
"  It's  the  greatest  work  I  ever  see,"  said  Jane.  She  went 
about  and  slammed  to  the  doors  and  locked  them ;  Elvira 
put  up  her  lace-work.  Then  they  went  to  bed  in  the  little 
bedroom  that  opened  out  of  the  kitchen — they  slept  to 

A  little  after  midnight  Elvira  awoke  her  sister — "Jane, 
Jane,  wake  up  !"  she  whispered,  fearfully.  The  dark  seemed 
to  loom  over  her  and  make  her  voice  echo  like  a  mountain. 
Jane  did  not  awaken  very  easily,  she  had  to  speak  again 
and  shake  her  a  little.  When  Jane  finally  aroused  it  was 
with  a  jerk.  She  sat  straight  up  in  bed.  "What's  the 
matter  ?"  asked  she,  in  a  loud,  determined  voice. 

"  Oh,  Jane,  lay  down  again ;  don't  be  scart.  I've  jest  had 
the  queerest  dream." 

"  Elvira  Slawson,  you  don't  mean  to  say  you  made  all 
this  row  an'  waked  me  up  out  of  a  sound  sleep  for  a 
dream !" 

"You  jest  wait  till  you  hear  it.  You  lay  down  an*  I'll 
tell  you  what  'twas." 

A   POT  OF  GOLD.  187 

"I  don't  want  to  hear  it,  an'  I  ain't  goin'  to.  I  ain't 
goin'  to  listen  to  any  such  tomfoolery — wakin'  me  up  out 
of  a  sound  sleep !  I  thought  the  house  was  afire,  or  some 
body  was  gittin'  in." 

"  I  won't  take  but  jest  a  minute,  Jane." 

"  I  ain't  goin'  to  hear  it,  an'  that's  all  there  is  about  it." 
Jane  lay  down  with  a  thud  that  made  the  feather-bed  arise 
in  billows. 

Elvira  begged  hard,  but  she  would  not  let  her  tell  the 
dream.  "  If  you  •  <on't  stop  carryin'  on  so  I'll  go  in  the 
spare  bedroom  a  leave  you  alone,"  said  she ;  "  I  ain't 
goin'  to  be  broke  '  r  vest  this  way." 

That  threat  si  u  Elvira.  All  her  life  she  had  been 
afraid  of  the  dark  i/  ri.e  were  alone  in  it. 

With  daylight  began  again,  but  Jane  was  obdurate. 
She  would  not  hji .  ihe  dream  at  all.  She  did  not  believe 
in  dreams.  She  '  •  ''  always  had  a  contempt  for  them,  and 
she  held  the  opl.iion  that  repeating  them  caused  one  to 
dream  more. 

So  Elvira  came  i  about  her  dream  all  day,  like  a  poet  his 
unsung  song.  She  would  have  told  it  to  Jonas,  but  he  was 
away  all  day  haying  in  a  distant  field.  The  Amesburys 
owned  this  small  farm,  but  their  own  haying  was  so  meagre 
that  it  was  done  long  ago.  Now  Jonas  was  hiring  out  to 
one  of  the  neighbors.  It  was  a  relief  to  his  mother  to  have 
him  away  all  day  ;  his  miserable  face  stirred  her  to  keenest 
agony  and  wrath.  She  was  utterly  distressed  and  despair 
ing  over  his  misery,  and  furious  with  him  that  he  yielded 
to  it. 

"  I  don't  see  as  he  looked  a  mite  different  when  he  came 
home  to  supper,"  she  told  Elvira  that  night,  "  and  he  hadn't 
eat  half  what  I  give  him  for  dinner." 

,88  A  POT  OF  GOLD. 

"I  wish  you'd  let  me  tell  you  that  dream,"  returned 
Elvira,  eagerly  and  mysteriously. 

"Elvira  Slawson,  if  you  don't  quit  talkin'  'bout  that 
dream  I  shall  go  ravin'  crazy.  I've  got  enough  to  stan'  up 
under  without  that." 

The  two  women  were  preparing  for  bed  again,  and  Jane 
took  the  hair-pins  out  of  her  knot  of  hair  with  a  conclusive 
air.  Her  hair  hanging  about  her  face  gave  her  a  fierce, 
haggard  look. 

"  Well,  of  course  I  ain't  a-goin'  to  tell  it  to  you  if  you  don't 
want  to  hear  it,"  returned  Elvira,  with  some  trace  of  dignity. 

"  Well,  I  don't  want  to  hear  it,  an'  I  hope  you'll  remem 
ber  it." 

But  again  Jane  was  awakened.  This  time  Elvira  clutched 
her  desperately.  "Jane,"  she  called,  "wake  up,  for  massy 
sake  !  J've  dreamed  it  again." 

Jane  sat  up,  took  hold  of  her  sister,  and  laid  her  down 
peremptorily.  Elvira  in  her  excitement  had  raised  herself, 
and  was  bending  over  her.  "Now,"  said  she,  "you  jest 
listen.  I'm  a-goin'  to  lay  down  again,  an'  if  you  speak  an 
other  word  I'm  a-goin'  into  the  spare  bedroom.  As  for 
bein'  broke  of  my  rest  again  to-night,  I  won't." 

Elvira  gave  a  little  gasp,  but  she  said  nothing  more. 
Soon  Jane  began  to  breathe  regularly.  It  was  three  o'clock 
in  the  morning  when  Elvira  aroused  her  again.  This  time 
Elvira  had  a  firm  clutch  on  her  arm  ;  her  voice  was  quite 
loud  and  decisive. 


"  What  do  you  mean  actin'  so  ?"  Jane  asked,  feebly. 
She  was  now  quite  alarmed. 

"  I'm  a-goin'  to  tell  you  my  dream,  JTve  dreamea  it 

A   POT  OF  GOLD.  189 

"  Well,  do  tell  it,  for  massy  sakes.    I  never  see  sech  work." 

"Jane,  I've  dreamed  three  times  that  I  found  a  pot  of  gold 
in  our  field  that  joins  Joe  Tenney's  oat  field.  It  was  under 
an  apple-tree.  I  dug  under  it,  and  I  found  it." 

"  H'm  1" 

"  It  was  an  iron  pot  with  a  cover,  like  the  one  you  boil 
beans  in,  an'  it  was  chock-full  of  gold  dollars." 

"That  all?" 

"Jane,  where  you  dream  about  the  same  thing  three 
times,  it  comes  true.  I've  always  heard  it  did." 

"  I  s'pose  you  believe  it." 

"  I  dun  know  as  I  really  believe,  but  I've  heard  lots  of 
folks  say  there  was  somethin'  in  it.  Don't  you  remember 
how  mother  dreamed  three  times  runnin'  how  father  was 
goin'  on  a  journey,  before  he  died  ?" 

"  Well,  if  you  want  to  believe  sech  stuff  you  can.  I  wish 
you'd  stop  talkin'.  I've  been  broke  of  my  rest  'bout  all  I 
want  to  be.  I  dun  know  but  I'll  go  into  the  spare  bedroom 
anyhow.  I  s'pose  jest  as  I  git  fairly  to  sleep  again  you'll 
dream  it  over  again  an'  grab  me." 

"Jane, don't  you  think  it  means  somethin'?" 

"It  means  I'm  goin'  into  the  spare  bedroom,  an'  I  ain't 
goin'  to  lay  here  talkin'  'bout  it." 

"  Don't,  Jane  ;  I  won't  speak  another  word." 

"You  mind  you  don't,  then." 

Elvira  kept  her  word.  She  said  no  more  that  night,  nor  did 
she  the  next  morning.  She  never  alluded  to  the  dream.  She 
assisted  about  the  dish-washing  after  breakfast ;  then  she  sat 
down  with  her  lace.  After  a  while  Jane  went  out  to  feed  the 
hens.  When  she  returned  she  caught  a  glimpse  of  Elvira 
stealing  around  the  corner  of  the  house.  "  Where  you  goin'  ?" 
she  called. 

190  A   POT  OF  GOLD. 

"  I  ain't  goin'  far,"  answered  Elvira,  in  a  trembling  voice. 
Jane  strode  after  her,  the  hens'  dough-dish  in  her  hand. 
Elvira  hustled  along,  but  she  soon  caught  up  with  her,  and 
saw  that  she  was  carrying  the  shovel. 

"  Where  are  you  going  with  that  shovel  ?"  asked  Jane. 

Suddenly  Elvira  faced  her ;  she  held  the  shovel  like  a 
staff.  " Pm— a-goiri  to  dig" 

"  Elvira  Slawson,  I  never  thought  you  was  quite  sech  a 
perfect  fool." 

"  I  don't  care  what  you  say,  Jane,  I'm  goin'  to  be  sure 
that  pot  of  gold  ain't  there." 

"  Well,  you  ain't  goin'  to  dull  up  that  new  shovel  diggin', 

"  I  jest  as  soon  take  the  old  one." 

Elvira  went  back  and  got  the  old  shovel.  Her  sis 
ter  sneered  and  argued  all  the  way,  but  she  paid  no 
heed.  There  was  on  her  mild  face  a  kind  of  rapt  ex 
pression,  like  a  higher  determination.  She  had  gotten 
her  revelation,  however  petty  by  comparison,  Joan  of  Arc 
fashion,  and  was  not  to  be  turned  back  by  banners  and 
spears.  Her  mission  was  not  to  fight,  but  to  dig,  and  she 
would  dig. 

She  went  forth  with  her  shovel,  and  left  Jane  still  talk 
ing.  She  did  not  return  until  noon ;  then  her  face  was  all 
flushed  with  the  heat ;  she  tried  not  to  pant.  There  was  a 
cup  of  tea  and  some  bread  and  butter  for  dinner ;  they  did 
not  have  a  regular  dinner  when  Jonas  was  not  at  home,  and 
Jonas  was  still  haying  for  the  neighbor. 

After  dinner  Elvira  put  on  her  sun-bonnet  again. 

"  Then  you  ain't  found  the  pot  of  gold  yet  ?"  remarked 
her  sister,  in  a  sweet,  stinging  voice.  She  had  not  spoken 
before  except  concerning  food  at  the  table. 

A  POT  OF  GOLD.  !9I 

"  No,"  said  Elvira,  "  I  ain't  found  it  yet." 

"  I  should  think  you'd  want  to  finish  that  lace  you  was 
workin'  on  some  time.  I  should  think  you'd  lose  more 
money  than  you'll  find  in  the  wonderful  pot." 

"  I  can  finish  the  lace  to-morrow,"  replied  Elvira,  going 
out  the  door.  She  had  left  her  shovel  in  the  field.  The 
afternoon  passed,  and  she  did  not  return.  Jane  got  sup 
per  ready,  and  she  had  not  come.  Jane  did  not  expect 
Jonas  until  late,  and  there  was  no  one  but  herself  at  home 
for  supper.  She  kept  going  to  the  road  and  looking. 
Finally  she  put  on  her  sun-bonnet,  and  went  down  the 
road.  It  was  not  far  to  the  field  of  Elvira's  dream.  On 
the  farther  side  a  stone  wall  divided  it  from  Joseph  Ten- 
ney's  land ;  in  the  distance  she  could  see  the  Tenney  house 
— white-painted  and  piazzaed,  a  village  mansion.  The  bars 
at  the  entrance  of  the  field  were  let  down  \  she  passed 
through.  There  were  five  old  apple-trees  in  the  field. 
Around  four  of  them  were  heaps  of  loose  earth  where  El 
vira  had  been  digging.  The  fifth  tree  stood  close  to  the 
wall  that  marked  the  Tenney  land;  its  branches  reached 
over  it.  Under  this  tree  crouched  Elvira,  examining  some 
thing.  Her  shovel  lay  beside  her  on  the  ground.  Jane 
approached  stealthily.  Just  as  she  reached  the  tree  she 
heard  a  quick  rustle  on  the  other  side  of  the  wall ;  she 
looked,  and  saw  Joseph  Tenney's  face  through  branches 
of  pink  dog-bane  and  over  masses  of  poison-ivy.  It  was  a 
handsome  old  face,  clean-shaven  and  blue-eyed,  but  it  was 
deathly  pale.  Elvira  saw  him  too.  She  and  Jane  looked 
at  him,  and  he  looked  at  them  ;  then  he  turned  about 
and  went  homeward  across  the  wet  field,  with  a  step  like  a 
slow  march.  If  it  was  a  retreat,  it  was  a  dignified  one. 

The  minute  Joseph  Tenney  went  away,  Elvira  sprang  up 

102  A  POT  OF  GOLD, 

and  grasped  the  shovel.  Jane  peered  around  her.  "What 
you  got  there  ?"  she  asked.  Then  she  repeated  the  question 
in  an  excited  tone :  "  Why,  what  is  it  ?  what  have  you 
found  ?"  She  had  seen  a  small  iron-bound  chest,  with 
loam  clinging  to  it ;  it  was  open,  and  overflowing  with  un 
folded  papers.  She  stepped  forward,  but  Elvira  was  be 
fore  her  in  the  path.  She  held  the  shovel  uplifted.  "  Don't 
you  go  near  it  /" 

"  Course  I'm  goin'  near  it.  I'd  like  to  know  what  you 
mean ;  I  guess  I've  got  jest  as  good  a  right  to  know  what 
'tis  as  you  have.  I  should  laugh." 

"  If you  come  one  step  nearer  I'll  kill  you  /"  Elvira's  eyes 
were  gleaming  ;  there  seemed  to  be  sharp  lights  like  steel 
in  them  ;  her  face  was  white  and  resolute. 

Jane  started  back :  she  was  frightened.  "  Well,  you  can 
keep  your  old  box  if  you  want  to,"  said  she.  Then  she 
went  off  across  the  field.  Her  sun-bonnet  was  tilted  until  it 
looked  of  itself  aggressive  and  rampant ;  she  never  turned 

She  had  not  been  home  long  when  Elvira  returned,  lean 
ing  upon  the  shovel.  She  could  scarcely  walk,  she  was  so 
exhausted.  When  she  sat  down  at  the  supper-table  she 
turned  faint ;  she  laid  her  head  down  on  the  table  with  a 
low  groan.  Jane  sprang  and  brought  some  water.  "It's 
the  greatest  piece  of  work  I  ever  did  see,"  she  said,  bathing 
her  sister's  forehead. 

Elvira  began  to  weep.  "  Oh,  Jane,  I  didn't  mean  to  say 
such  a  dreadful  thing  to  you  !"  she  sobbed,  weakly.  "  But  I 
couldn't  show  it  to  you,  nohow;  I  couldn't." 

"  We  won't  say  nothin'  more  'bout  it,"  said  Jane,  shortly. 
"You'll  be  sick  next.  I  don't  care  nothin'  'bout  the  old 

A  POT  OF  GOLD.  193 

After  Elvira  had  had  her  tea,  Jane  made  her  go  to  bed. 
She  said  nothing  about  the  matter  to  Jonas  when  he  re 
turned.  She  thought  he  seemed  more  depressed  than  ever. 

The  next  day,  in  the  afternoon,  Jane  went  down  to  the 
store  for  a  little  shopping.  She  had  a  plan  to  buy  some 
gray  flannel  and  make  a  nice  shirt  for  Jonas  to  do  haying 
in.  She  thought  that  might  perhaps  please  him  and  cheer 
him  a  little.  She  was  gone  an  hour.  When  she  returned 
she  found  Elvira  sitting  on  the  door-step  knitting  her  lace. 
There  was  a  grape-vine  around  the  door,  and  some  of  the 
light  green  sprays  hung  down  over  Elvira's  head.  Her 
face,  bent  over  her  lace-work,  looked  fair  and  peaceful. 
Her  old  muslin  dress  fell  around  her  in  soft  folds.  She 
was  sixty  years  old,  but  she  looked  maidenly.  When  Jane 
stood  before  her  she  smiled  up  at  her.  Jane  sank  down  on 
the  door-step.  "  It's  a  dreadful  hot  day,"  she  sighed.  She 
eyed  Elvira  sharply.  She  felt  irascible,  and  as  if  she  must 
let  go  her  tongue.  Her  face  was  glossy  with  perspiration, 
her  hands  were  black  from  her  cotton  gloves.  She  sus 
pected  that  the  flannel  was  a  poor  bargain.  She  eyed 
Elvira  a  minute,  then  she  spoke.  "  There  wa'n't  no  need 
of  your  bein'  so  mighty  private  'bout  that  box.  I  knowed 
well  'nough  what  'twas  all  the  time." 

Elvira  dropped  the  lace  and  looked  at  her. 

"  Mebbe  you  don't  b'lieve  it.  Well,  I'll  tell  you  what 
'twas :  it  was  them  deeds" 

Elvira  was  trembling  violently.  "  Well,  there  ain't  no 
harm  in  it  if  it  was." 

"  Mebbe  there  ain't ;  but  that's  what  was  in  that  box — 
them  deeds." 

"  His  brother's  dead  now,  an'  they're  his  anyway.  You 
can't  do  nothin'." 



"  Oh,  I  ain't  goin'  to  do  nothin'.  I  wouldn't  stir  a  step 
to  tell  it  to  a  livin'  soul.  You  needn't  worry  'bout  that. 
I  ain't  afeared  but  he'll  git  punishment  'xiough  some  way. 
I  sha'n't  do  nothin'  to  bring  it  on  him." 

Elvira  looked  fixedly  at  her  sister ;  her  soft,  drawling 
voice  became  quite  firm.  "Jane,  he  didn't  do  nothin' 
wrong  'bout  that.  He's  told  me  all  'bout  it." 

"  Told  you  'bout  it  ?     When  ?" 

"  Just  now — this  afternoon." 

"  Has  Joe  Tenney  been  here  ?" 


"  Come  over  'cause  he  was  scart,  I  s'pose." 

"No,  he  didn't.  He  was  goin'  by,  and  I  called  him  in. 
I  wanted  to  tell  him  where  I  put  it." 

"Where  did  you  put  it?" 

"Under  the  stone  wall,  on  his  side.  He  told  me  all 
'bout  it ;  jest  how  it  was." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  how  he  'counted  for  hidin'  the  deeds." 

"I  can't  tell  you;  I  said  I  wouldn't;  but  he  wa'n't  one 
mite  to  blame." 

"  Well,  mebbe  you  believe  it." 

"Course  I  believe  it." 

Jane  surveyed  her  blackened  hands.  Her  right  knee 
ached ;  she  was  rheumatic.  "  P'rhaps  he'll  have  you  yet, 
if  you  stick  up  for  him  so,"  said  she. 

Elvira  quivered  and  shrank;  her  eyes  suddenly  looked 
red  and  weak.  "  Jane,  you  know  I'm  past  all  that.  There 
ain't  no  call  for  you  to  say  sech  things  as  that.  Sech  a 
thing  ain't  never  entered  into  his  head.  He's  been  married 
to  a  real  nice  woman,  an'  he  ain't  thought  of  me  once  a 
year.  'Twa'n't  ever  much  to  him  anyway ;  he  wa'n't  noth 
in'  but  a  boy.  He  don't  want  me,  an'  I  wouldn't  have 

A    POT  OF  GOLD.  195 

him  if  he  did.  I  ain't  no  fit  person  for  him.  He  can  git 
somebody  that's  younger  an'  smarter  if  he  wants  anybody. 
I  ain't  nothin'  to  be  married,  an'  I  know  it  well  'nough." 

"  You  can  talk  that  way  all  you  want  to ;  you'd  have 
him  fast  enough  if  you  had  the  chance." 

Elvira  looked  quite  solemnly  at  her  sister.  "Look 
a-here,  Jane,"  said  she,  "  mebbe  you  dun  know  jest  what  I 
mean  ;  but  it  seems  to  me  as  if  bein'  sure  that  anybody  was 
all  right  an'  honest  was  the  completest  kind  of  bein'  mar 
ried  that  anybody  could  have." 

Jane  stared  at  her  for  a  moment ;  then  she  looked  away ; 
she  did  not  say  any  more. 

Elvira  knitted  for  a  few  minutes ;  then  she  looked  up. 
"  I  ruther  guess,"  said  she, "  that  it  will  come  out  all  right 
'bout  Jonas  an'  Rose." 

"  What  do  you  mean  ?" 

"We  talked  it  over  some.  I  guess  he  thought  Jonas 
hadn't  got  much,  an'  there  wa'n't  much  sense  in  it,  in  the 
first  place,  an'  he  told  Rose  she's  got  to  give  him  up ;  but 
I  shouldn't  wonder  if  he  was  kinder  thinkin'  better  of 

"S'pose  he's  afraid  we'll  tell  if  he  don't." 

"  No,  that  ain't  it.  If  you  knew  what  I  know  you  wouldn't 
say  so." 

"  Well,  I  dun  know  what  you  know,  but  you've  got  more 
faith  in  him  than  I  have." 

Elvira's  face  was  lifted ;  she  looked  past  her  sister  with 
an  expression  as  if  she  were  looking  at  a  shrine.  "  I  know 
Joe  Tenney  is  a  good  man,"  said  she. 

The  next  day  Jonas  was  at  home  working  in  the  garden. 
In  the  afternoon  a  neighbor  drove  into  the  yard  and  called 
to  him.  He  had  brought  a  letter  to  him  from  the  post-office. 

196  A  POT  OF  GOLD. 

Jane  was  peeping  curiously  from  the  window.  "  What  is 
it  ?"  she  called  out,  after  the  neighbor  had  driven  away. 

Jonas  stood  out  in  the  yard  staring  at  the  letter.  "  Oh, 
nothing  much,"  he  answered.  But  smiles  were  playing  all 
over  his  face.  He  went  back  to  the  garden,  and  whistled 
as  he  worked. 

After  tea  he  went  up-stairs,  and  was  gone  quite  a  while. 
"  I  believe  he's  goin'  somewhere,"  Jane  said  to  Elvira.  "He 
washed  him  real  particular,  an'  he's  shaved  him.  I  don't 
believe  but  he's  goin'  down  there." 

When  Jonas  came  down-stairs  he  had  on  his  best  suit ; 
his  curly  hair  was  damp  and  trained  in  careful  locks  over 
his  smooth  young  forehead  ;  his  cheeks  were  fresh  and  rosy; 
he  held  his  neck  stiffly  in  his  clean  collar  and  white  necktie. 

He  stood  in  the  kitchen  and  brushed  his  hat  carefully. 
His  mother  and  aunt  were  in  the  sitting-room,  and  he 
stepped  softly,  hoping  they  would  not  come  out ;  but  his 
mother  looked  out  into  the  kitchen.  "  Where  you  goin'  ?" 
she  inquired. 

Jonas  blushed  beautifully  like  a  girl.  Then  he  laughed. 
"  Oh,  I  ain't  goin'  far,"  he  replied,  putting  on  his  hat  and 
passing  out  under  the  grape-vine. 

Jane  and  Elvira  sat  up  until  he  returned,  although  it  was 
quite  late.  They  heard  his  step  out  in  the  yard,  and  were 
alert  when  he  came  in.  He  was  radiant.  He  stood  in  the 
door  looking  at  them  and  smiling.  "  Well,"  said  his  mother. 

"I  guess  it's  all  right,"  said  Jonas.  "  I  shouldn't  wonder 
if  one  of  these  days  you  had  a  daughter."  His  face  was 
all  pink  and  glowing,  his  yellow  hair  was  dry,  and  the 
fluffy  curls  stood  out  around  his  forehead  and  caught  the 
light.  Elvira  began  to  cry.  His  mother  laughed  and 
frowned  together. 

A  POT  OF  GOLD.  !97 

"Well,  I  hope  you'll  behave  yourself  an'  eat  somethin' 
now,"  said  she. 

After  he  had  gone  up-stairs  she  went  out  into  the  kitchen 
to  mix  bread.  "  I  guess  I'll  have  some  riz  biscuit  for  break 
fast,"  she  said  to  Elvira.  "  He  didn't  eat  none  of  them 
others,  but  I  s'pose  he'll  eat  these  fast  'nough.  It  beats  me, 
but  I  s'pose  it's — love"  She  tried  to  say  " love "  as  if  it 
were  a  clod  of  mud,  but  in  spite  of  herself  she  said  it  as  if  it 
were  a  jewei 


CLARISSA  MAY'S  kitchen  table  was  heaped  with  rose 
leaves.  She  was  filling  a  large  brown  far  with  layers  of 
rose  leaves  and  salt.  She  sprinkled  in  various  spices  too, 
then  sniffed  at  the  mixture  daintily. 

"  Needs  a  little  more  cinnamon,"  she  murmured. 

"  I  wish  you'd  let  the  cinnamon  alone,"  said  a  quick, 
sweet  voice — "  the  cinnamon,  and  the  rose  leaves,  and  the 
salt,  and  the  whole  of  it.  I'd  like  to  fling  it  into  the  fire." 

"Don't  talk  so,  Anne." 

Anne  stood  in  the  door.  She  had  just  come  down  from 
her  chamber.  She  was  all  ready  to  go  to  the  picnic.  She 
wore  a  broad-brimmed  white  straw  hat,  trimmed  with  fine 
pink  flowers.  Her  ruffled,  pink-flowered  muslin  gown  flut 
tered  crisply.  She  had  pinned  some  pink  rose-buds  at  her 

Anne  and  Clarissa  were  wonderfully  alike,  but  the  com 
parison  would  have  been  less  derogatory  for  Clarissa  had 
they  been  different.  The  resemblance  brought  the  regret 
and  humiliation  of  loss  to  her.  Anne  showed  what  Clarissa 
had  been.  She  was  the  rose  of  this  spring,  her  sister  was 
one  of  last.  If  both  of  them  had  not  been  roses,  the  last 
year's  flower  would  not  have  seemed  so  forlorn. 

Clarissa's  dull  blond  hair  was  brushed  smoothly  around 



her  ears ;  Anne's  was  crinkled,  and  there  were  gold  lights 
in  it.  Clarissa's  skin  was  tintless  and  faintly  lined ;  her  sis 
ter's  was  warm  and  rosy  and  smooth.  Clarissa's  lips  were 
thin ;  Anne's,  full  and  red.  One's  figure  showed  angles ;  the 
other's,  curves. 

Clarissa,  replying  with  her  mild,  deprecating  voice,  gazed 
admiringly  at  her  sister.  "  You  look  real  nice,"  she  added. 

"Sometimes  I  don't  care  whether  I  look  nice  or  not. 
You  do  make  me  so  out  of  patience  !" 

"  Why,  Anne,  how  you  talk  !" 

"  I  don't  care — you  do.  The  idea  of  you  shutting  your 
self  up  here,  packing  a  mess  of  rose  leaves  into  a  jar! 
There  isn't  any  sense  in  it." 

"  You  know  I'd  rather  stay  at  home." 

"I  don't  care  if  you  had.  It's  real  nice  for  me  going 
alone !" 

"  Ellen  Pierson's  going,  isn't  she  ?" 

"  I  don't  care  if  she  is.  Sometimes  anybody  'd  like  their 
own  sister." 

"  I  feel  as  if  I  was  so  much  older." 

"  Older !  You're  not  any  older  than  dozens  of  girls  that 
go  all  the  time.  You're  not  any  older  than  Addie  Leach 
or  Abby  Button;  and  I  guess  they'd  be  mad  enough  if  any 
body  was  to  tell  them  they  were  too  old  to  go." 

"  There's  a  lock  of  hair  loose.  Come  round  here  and  let 
me  fix  it." 

"  I  don't  care  if  it  is,"  said  Anne.  But  she  stepped  over 
to  her  sister,  nevertheless,  and  Clarissa  tucked  up  the  golden 
lock  carefully. 

"  P'rhaps  I'll  go  next  time,"  said  she,  appeasingly.  "All 
is,  I  don't  feel  much  like  it,  you  know.  People  don't,  I  sup 
pose,  as  they  grow  older." 


"  If  they  get  up  a  party  to  go  on  West  Mountain  next  week, 
will  you  go  ?" 

"  I'll  see  about  it." 

"  I'll  crimp  your  hair,  and  we'll  fix  over  your  blue  dress.'1 

"  You'll  be  late,  if  you  don't  run  along." 

"Do  I  look  all  right?" 

"  Yes.     I  guess  your  hair'll  stay  up  now." 

After  Anne  had  danced  out  with  a  crisp  swish  of  muslin 
skirts,  Clarissa  went  on  with  her  work.  She  gathered  up  the 
soft  rose  leaves  with  her  little  thin  veiny  hands,  and  laid 
them  in  the  jar  with  the  greatest  care. 

She  was  soon  interrupted  again,  however.  "Oh,  here 
you  are !"  said  another  voice.  There  was  a  contemptuous 
inflection  in  it.  A  tall,  pale  woman  stood  in  the  door.  She 
held  out  a  package  of  letters  and  a  little  white  box  stiffly 
in  one  hand. 

"  Oh,  is  it  you,  Aunt  Joanna  ?" 

"  Yes,  it's  me.     Why  ain't  you  gone  to  the  picnic  ?" 

"  I  didn't  feel  like  it" 

"  Didn't  feel  like  it !  I  s'pose  you  felt  more  like  putter- 
in'  over  rose  leaves.  Clarissa  May,  I  b'lieve  you're  jest 
about  a  fool." 

"  I  don't  know  what  you  mean."  Clarissa  glanced  at  the 
letters,  and  her  hands  trembled. 

"  Yes,  you  do  know  what  I  mean.  I  came  in  the  front 
way,  an'  went  up-stairs.  I  wanted  a  piece  of  brown  cam 
bric  to  line  my  sleeves,  an'  I  thought  I'd  see  if  you  hadn't 
got  any.  An'  I  found  these  things  in  your  bottom  bureau 
drawer,  tucked  away  in  the  corner  out  of  sight.  I'd  like  to 
know  why  you've  kept  these  old  letters  of  Gilman  Lane's  so 
dreadful  choice  for  all  this  time.  They  were  wrote  much  as 
ten  year  ago,  some  of  'em," 


"  Aunt  Joanna,  give  me  those  letters,  please." 

Clarissa  trembled  so  she  could  scarcely  speak.  She  felt 
as  if  all  the  light  in  the  world  was  shining  on  her  heart  and 
showing  it  forth  pitilessly,  dispelling  all  its  innocent  shadows, 
which  had  seemed  like  guilty  ones  to  her. 

"I  never  see  such  a  mess  of  nonsense  in  my  life:  all 
'  darling '  an'  '*  dear.'  It's  enough  to  make  anybody  sick." 

"  Aunt  Joanna,  you  haven't  read  them  ?" 

"  I  guess  I  have  read  'em,  every  line.  I  rather  think  I 
had  a  right  to,  as  long  as  you're  my  sister's  daughter.  I 
s'pose  he  give  you  this  breast-pin  too,  eh  ?" 

"  Aunt  Joanna  !" 

"  You  needn't  look  so  toppin'.  When  you've  been  doin' 
the  way  you  have  late  years,  never  stirrin'  out  of  the  house 
except  to  meetin',  an'  actin'  as  if  you'd  give  up  the  world, 
it's  about  time  you  was  looked  out  after.  Now  I  jest  want 
to  know  if  Oilman  Lane  give  you  the  mitten,  an'  if  that's  what 
ails  you  ?" 

"  Aunt  Joanna,  if  you'll  give  me  those  letters — " 

"  If  he  has,  he's  a  mean  scamp,  an'  you're  an  awful  fool, 
that's  all  I've  got  to  say.  Before  I'd  spend  my  whole  life 
frettin'  over  one  feller !" 

"  Aunt  Joanna,  you  haven't  any  right  to  come  here  talking 
to  me  so." 

"  I  guess  I've  got  as  good  a  right  as  anybody.  I  guess 
you  won't  find  anybody  that  thinks  much  more  of  you,  or  is 
more  interested  in  you,  than  me.  Clarissa  May,  what  I 
want  to  know  is  this — was  you  engaged  to  Oilman  Lane  ?" 

"  No,"  said  Clarissa,  shortly.  Then  she  turned  her  face 
obstinately  away,  and  went  to  work  on  her  rose  leaves  again, 
and  would  not  speak  another  word.  Her  aunt  questioned 
and  reproved  a  while  longer  j  then  finding  that  she  could 


get  no  further  response,  threw  the  letters  and  box  down  on 
the  table,  and  left. 

"If  I  had  such  soft  letters  lying  around  I'd  burn  'em.  I 
wouldn't  leave  'em  where  folks  could  get  'em,"  said  she. 
She  turned  around  as  she  went  out  of  the  door.  "  I  took 
that  piece  of  brown  cambric  you  had  in  your  blue  box,  but 
I  don'  know  as  it's  enough." 

Clarissa  had  been  intending  to  use  the  cambric  herself, 
but  she  said  not  a  word.  After  her  aunt  had  gone  she  car 
ried  the  letters  up-stairs,  and  put  them  in  their  old  place ; 
then  returned  to  her  work. 

She  filled  the  jar  quite  full,  then  tidied  up  her  kitchen. 
When  the  noon  bells  were  ringing,  her  Aunt  Joanna  ap 
peared  again.  She  had  a  covered  plate  in  her  hand.  She 
had  brought  over  some  warm  dinner.  Clarissa  thanked  her, 
and  took  it.  Neither  of  the  women  alluded  to  the  letters. 
But  the  niece  looked  after  her  aunt  as  she  went  out  of  the 
yard,  and  if  she  could  have  smitten  her  with  a  total  loss  of 
memory,  she  would  have  done  it  in  her  shame  and  distress. 

Clarissa  May  knew  every  line  of  those  old  letters  by 
heart.  She  knew  whereabouts  the  lines  stood  on  the  pages, 
and  the  words  in  the  lines.  The  few  fond  adjectives  shone 
out  like  jewels  among  them.  Now  she  thought  them  all 
over,  she  recounted  one  after  another,  and  she  said  to  her 
self,  "  Aunt  Joanna  has  seen  this,  and  this." 

She  set  away  the  dinner  untasted,  put  on  her  afternoon 
dress,  and  sat  down  with  her  sewing  at  the  sitting-room 

Anne  found  her  there  when  she  returned  from  the  picnic. 
Anne  had  lost  a  little  of  her  crisp  daintiness  of  the  morn 
ing.  Her  yellow  hair  was  tumbled,  her  cheeks  were  hot,  and 
her  muslin  dress  was  crumpled. 


She  sat  down  in  the  first  chair  with  a  sigh.  "  Oh,"  said  she, 
"  I'm  glad  to  get  in  where  it's  cool !  It's  terrible  out  in  the  sun." 

She  looked  around  the  room  and  at  her  sister  approv 
ingly.  There  were  a  certain  patience  and  tranquillity  about 
Clarissa,  as  she  sat  there  sewing,  which  were  cool  and  re 
freshing  of  themselves. 

"  You  look  real  cool  and  comfortable,"  said  Anne. 

Clarissa  had  on  an  old-fashioned  cotton  gown  of  a  mixed 
green-and-white  pattern,  which  suited  her  soft  faded  face. 
This  cool  old  summer-gown  had  served  her  mother  before 
her.  The  daughter  wore  it  with  very  little  alteration  in  the 
straight  full  skirt  and  long  prim  body.  It  came  out  of  its 
winter  seclusion  every  June  and  seemed  as  if  it  would 
never  be  worn  out.  Clarissa  regarded  it  with  gratitude 
and  thankfulness.  She  wanted  Anne  to  have  all  the  new 
summer  dresses. 

The  sisters  had  their  small  income  of  one  hundred  and 
fifty  dollars  besides  their  house.  This  one  hundred  and 
fifty,  eked  out  with  a  little  sewing  which  Clarissa  did,  bought 
their  food  and  clothes.  Clarissa  was  a  good  manager,  she 
made  a  little  go  so  far,  and  she  was  very  careful.  There 
was  a  good  deal  of  fine  darning  on  the  sitting-room  carpet, 
but  it  took  close  scrutiny  to  see  it  among  those  faded, 
whitish-drab  scrolls.  The  room  was  sweet  with  roses — 
living  ones,  which  grew  close  to  the  open  windows,  and  dead 
ones,  which  lay  conserved  with  salt  and  spices  in  Clarissa's 
jars.  She  had  converted  every  unused  dish  in  the  house 
into  a  receptacle  for  her  rose  leaves.  Old  china  teapots 
stood  about,  and  sugar  bowls,  and  earthen  jars,  all  exhaling 
spicy  sweetness.  They  were  in  every  room  in  the  house. 
The  amusements  which  life  held  for  Clarissa  seemed  to  be 
concentrated  into  this  one  gentle,  erratic  one  of  conserving 


rose  leaves.  And  the  amusement  was  of  such  long  stand 
ing  that  it  was  almost  like  a  duty  to  her.  It  is  doubtful  if  she 
did  not  unconsciously  think  it  wrong  to  let  a  rose  leaf  en 
tirely  perish,  with  all  its  sweetness,  while  she  could  save  it. 

Years  ago  Oilman  Lane  had  taught  her  how  to  make  her 
first  pot-pourri.  "  You  ought  to  save  all  those  roses,"  he 
had  said  one  far-off  summer  day.  "  My  Aunt  Celia  packs 
'em  in  a  jar  with  salt.  I'll  show  you  how." 

The  two  had  packed  a  little  blue  ginger  jar  with  those  old 
rose  leaves.  It  stood  on  the  shelf  in  the  best  parlor  now, 
with  the  same  ones  in  it. 

Something  stronger  than  any  rose  fragrance  floated  from 
it  to  Clarissa  every  time  she  entered  the  room.  It  was  the 
fragrance  of  the  old  memory,  which  was  better  conserved 
than  the  rose  leaves,  and  formed  the  lasting  element  of  that 
first  pot-pourri. 

"I  should  think  you'd  fill  up  that  jar  new,"  Anne  said 
often.  She  had  no  sense  for  that  wonderful  sweetness 
which  her  elder  sister  got  from  it. 

Anne  sat  still  for  quite  a  while  to-day.  She  did  not  talk 
as  she  usually  did  on  a  return  from  a  merrymaking.  She 
leaned  her  head  back  in  her  chair  and  stared  at  the  oppo 
site  wall.  There  was  a  thoughtful  look  in  her  eyes,  but  her 
mouth  was  half  smiling. 

"  Did  you  have  a  good  time  ?"  Clarissa  asked,  finally. 

"Real  good,"  Anne  said.  Then  she  hesitated.  Her 
conscious  smile  grew  more  distinct ;  the  red  on  her  cheeks 
deepened.  "  You  used  to  know  Oilman  Lane,  didn't  you, 
Clarissa  ?"  she  went  on.  "  Why,  what  is  the  matter  ?" 

"  Nothing." 

"  Yes  there  is,  too ;  you're  awful  white.  Oh,  Clarissa,  don't 
you  feel  well?" 


"Just  as  well  as  I  ever  did.  Go  on.  What  were  you 
saying  ?  Oh,  about  Oilman  Lane." 

"  He  was  there,  you  know.  He's  got  back  from  Cali 
fornia,  where  he's  been  ten  years.  I  didn't  remember  him. 
I  was  nothing  but  a  little  girl  when  he  went  away,  anyhow. 
You  used  to  know  him,  didn't  you  ?" 

"Yes,  some." 

"  He's  real  handsome.  Ellen  introduced  him  to  me  \ 
he's  a  sort  of  a  cousin  of  hers,  you  know.  She  says  he's 
splendid.  He's  older  than  I  am.  Why,  didn't  he  go  to 
school  with  you,  Clarissa  ?" 

"Yes,  I  believe  he  did." 

"  Why,  it  seems  to  me  I  remember  his  coming  here  some 
times,  now  I  think  of  it.  Didn't  he  used  to  ?" 

"  Yes,  he  used  to  run  in  once  in  a  while,  I  guess." 

"  I  declare,  I  do  remember  it ;  but  I  never  would  have 
known  him.  He's  splendid-looking." 

Anne  rose  and  took  off  her  bonnet  slowly.  "  How  soon 
are  you  going  to  have  tea,  Clarissa  ?" 

"  We'll  have  it  now,  if  you  want  it." 

"  Well,  I  don't  know  but  we'd  better,  and  get  it  out  of  the 
way."  Anne  stood  laughing  and  fingering  her  bonnet 
strings.  "  To  tell  you  the  truth,  I  shouldn't  wonder  a  bit 
if  he  was  up  here  to-night.  What  is  the  matter  ?  I  know 
you're  sick,  Clarissa." 

"No,  I  ain't.  I  guess  I'd  better  go  and  get  tea  right 
away,  then." 

"  It  was  a  great  joke  on  the  other  girls,  you  know.  They 
were  all  teasing  Ellen  to  introduce  them,  but  he  never  looked 
at  one  of  them.  P'rhaps  he  won't  come ;  but  I  shouldn't  be 
a  bit  surprised." 

Oilman  Lane  did  come.    His  tall,  muscular  figure  passed 


at  dusk  that  night  between  the  descendants  of  those  old  roses, 
up  to  the  front-door  porch,  which  was  overgrown  with  them. 

Anne  answered  his  knock.  She  was  aglow  with  modest 
delight.  She  looked  up  in  his  face  with  innocent  admira 
tion,  which  he  was  foolish  not  to  see.  No  wonder  that  this 
man  outshone  the  gentle  village  boys  in  her  eyes  !  Gilman 
Lane  had  always  been  handsome.  He  was  roughened  and 
browned  now  by  his  California  life,  but  that  only  accentuated 
his  beauty  to  a  country  girl  like  Anne,  who  thought  natu 
rally  of  men  as  antipodes  of  flowers  and  women. 

"  Good-evening,  Mr.  Lane,"  said  she,  primly,  her  cheeks 
pink,  her  eyes  shyly  radiant.  "  Won't  you  walk  in  ?" 

Clarissa,  up  in  her  room,  heard  the  knock,  the  opening 
door  in  response,  and  the  firm,  manly  tread  across  the  entry 
floor.  Then  she  heard  the  murmur  of  voices  in  the  best 
parlor.  She  sat  on  the  edge  of  her  little  bed,  listening. 
She  was  rigid  ;  her  hands  were  cold  as  ice. 

In  a  half-hour  or  so  she  heard  Anne's  step  on  the  stairs, 
and  rose  hurriedly.  She  was  lighting  a  candle  when  her 
sister  entered. 

"  Come  down-stairs,"  Anne  whispered ,  "  he  wants  to  see 

"  I  can't.     I  was  just  going  over  to  Aunt  Joanna's." 

"Come  along." 

"  He  doesn't  want  to  see  me." 

"Yes,  he  does.  He  asked  if  you  were  at  home.  He 
said  he  used  to  know  you,  and  he  would  like  to  see  you. 
Come  along  down.  If  you  don't,  he'll  think  you  don't  want 
him  to  come  here,  or  something." 

Clarissa,  following  her  imperious  young  sister  down-stairs, 
went  weakly,  like  an  old  woman ;  but  Anne,  in  her  joyful  in- 
petuosity,  never  noticed  it. 


Lane  rose  as  the  two  entered  the  parlor,  and  came  across  the 
room.  He  stumbled  over  a  mat  in  his  progress,  and  colored. 
He  always  managed  his  great  frame  a  little  clumsily. 

"  Well,  how  do  you  do,  Clarissa  ?"  said  he.  His  voice 
was  loud  and  hearty,  with  a  little  hesitation  in  it. 

"  How  do  you  do,  Gilman  ?"  It  was  that  freedom  of  old 
days  lapsed  into  formality  which  is  the  most  chilling  of  all. 

They  shook  hands ;  then  seated  themselves.  Clarissa 
was  mute.  She  felt  herself  trembling,  and  wondered  if  he 
saw  it.  He  did  not ;  he  was  thinking  to  himself  how  very 
cool  and  stiff  she  was. 

He  tried  to  make  some  conversation.  "  You're  changed 
some,  Clarissa,  like  all  the  rest  of  us,"  he  said,  laughing 
awkwardly.  There  was  a  real  flush  on  his  brown  face. 

"  I  suppose  I  have,"  said  Clarissa,  delicate  and  pale  and 
outwardly  composed.  She  smiled  faintly  in  his  direction. 

"  I  guess  you're  a  little  thinner  than  you  used  to  be,  and 
you  haven't  got  quite  so  much  color.  You're  well,  aren't 

There  was  an  odd  tone  in  his  voice  then  that  made  Anne 
stare  wonderingly  at  him. 

"Very  well,  thank  you,"  Clarissa  said. 

"  It  was  a  good  deal  of  a  joke  on  me,  but  I  declare  when 
I  first  saw  your  sister  to-day  I  thought  it  was  you.  She 
looks  just  the  way  you  used  to,  doesn't  she  ?" 

"  Everybody  says  she  does." 

"  She  does,  sure  enough.  Why  didn't  you  go  to  the  pic 
nic  to-day,  Clarissa  ?" 

"  I  don't  go  out  a  great  deal." 

"  She'd  rather  stay  in  the  house  and  fill  old  sugar  bowls 
and  jars  with  rose  leaves,"  Anne  interrupted,  with  laughing 
pcttishness.  "  I've  been  telling  him  about  it." 


"  I  noticed  it  the  minute  I  came  into  the  house,"  said 
Lane.  "  I  wondered  what  it  was  that  smelt  so  sweet." 

"  Good  reason  why,"  laughed  Anne ;  "  there  are  four  things 
full  of  rose  leaves  in  here,  besides  that  blue  ginger-jar  on  the 
shelf.  They're  old  in  that,  and  don't  smell  much.  Why 
don't  you  fill  that  one  new,  Clarissa  ?" 

Lane  looked  at  it  gravely.  "  You  ought  to,"  said  he  ; 
"that's  a  real  pretty  jar." 

He  had  forgotten  all  about  it.  Whatever  consciousness 
his  heart  held  of  those  old  days  did  not  include  that.  His 
man's  memory  could  not  keep  such  small  precious  things. 

"  I  thought  I  had  about  enough,"  said  Clarissa,  trying  to 
speak  easily.  She  looked  over  at  the  jar.  For  a  moment 
it  seemed  more  valuable  to  her  than  the  man  who  had  for 
gotten  it  and  its  storied  sweetness.  "  It's  all  I've  got  left 
of  anything,"  flashed  through  her  mind.  She  wanted  to 
seize  it  and  cry  over  it.  The  forgetting  and  slighting  this 
poor  little  jar  made  it  harder  for  her  to  control  herself. 
She  could  scarcely  keep  the  tears  back.  But  no  one  would 
have  guessed  it  as  she  sat  there  pale  and  slender  and  prim. 

She  excused  herself  before  long.  She  had  to  go  over  to 
her  aunt  Joanna's,  she  said,  and  pleaded  some  housewifely 

Joanna  Emmons  was  a  widow.  She  kept  house  with  her 
daughter,  also  a  widow,  and  two  unmarried  sons. 

The  family  were  all  in  bed,  but  the  doors  were  never 
locked.  Clarissa  went  straight  in,  and  groped  her  way  across 
the  dusky  kitchen  to  her  aunt's  bedroom  door. 

"  Aunt  Joanna !"  she  called,  softly. 

"  Who  is  it  ?"  said  her  aunt,  sitting  up  in  bed  suddenly. 
She  had  not  yet  fallen  asleep. 

"  It's  Clarissa.     Say,  Aunt  Joanna — " 


"  What  are  you  over  here  for  this  time  of  night  ?  Anne 
ain't  sick,  is  she  ?" 

"No.  I  wanted  to  see  you  a  minute.  Aunt  Joanna,  I 
wanted  to  tell  you  something,  and  I  mean  it.  It's — about 
— those  letters.  If  you  ever  tell  Anne  or  anybody  else  any 
thing  about  them,  I'll  go  away  somewhere  where  you'll  never 
see  me  again,  nor  any  one  else  either." 

"  Clarissa  May,  what  do  you  mean  ?" 

"  What  I  say.     You've  got  to  promise  me  you  won't." 

"  'Tain't  very  likely  I'm  goin'  all  round  town  tellin'  what 
a  fool  my  sister's  daughter  made  of  herself." 

"  Aunt  Joanna,  you've  got  to  promise  me." 

"  Clarissa  May,  let  go  of  my  hands !  You're  crazy. 
You  scare  me  'most  to  death !" 

"  Promise." 

"Well,  I'll  promise.  I  won't  speak  of  'em  to  a  soul. 
There !" 

"  Then  I'll  go  home.     Don't  you  forget." 

"  Clarissa,  come  back  here  !"  her  aunt  called  after  her,  as 
she  sped  across  the  kitchen  ;  but  she  was  gone. 

Anne  was  in  the  sitting-room  when  she  reached  home. 
"  He  went  right  after  you  did,"  said  she,  smiling  consciously. 
"  I  don't  think  you  treated  him  very  well,  Clarissa." 

'•  I  don't  see  why,"  said  Clarissa,  in  a  timid  way. 

"  You  acted  as  stiff  as  a  poker.  He  thought  it  was  awful 
funny  that  you  didn't  go  out  any  more.  You've  got  to  go  up 
West  Mountain  next  week,  anyhow." 

Poor  Clarissa  went.  She  dragged  herself  wearily  up 
those  steep  inclines,  trying  all  the  time  to  smile  with  the 
rest  of  the  merry  party.  When  they  reached  the  summit 
her  face  was  damp  and  pale  with  the  heat ;  her  lustreless 
hair  clung  close  to  her  forehead.  Anne  was  all  rosy  and 


glowing.  Oilman  Lane  was  at  her  side  all  day.  Several 
times  he  tried  to  talk  with  Clarissa,  but  she  avoided  him, 
keeping  close  to  some  of  the  older  young  women,  her  mates. 

"Oilman  Lane  is  dead  in  love  with  Anne  May,"  she 
overheard  one  say,  with  a  furtive  glance  at  her.  Some  of 
them  remembered  that  years  ago  there  had  been  a  similar 
report  in  connection  with  the  older  sister. 

"  He's  perfectly  splendid,"  Anne  said  that  night.  "  Why 
don't  you  say  more  to  him,  Clarissa  ?  I'm  afraid  he'll  think 
you  don't  want  him  to  come." 

So  the  next  time  that  Oilman  called,  Clarissa  made  an 
effort  to  be  cordial  and  talkative.  She  also  remained  in  the 
room  a  little  longer. 

The  summer  passed,  the  autumn,  and  the  winter ;  then  the 
spring  came  again.  Oilman  Lane  still  called  nearly  every 
week  at  the  May's. 

People  said,  "  Oilman  Lane  is  going  with  Anne."  Still  he 
hardly  fulfilled,  in  their  opinions,  all  the  conditions  of  court 
ship.  He  did  not  come  regularly  on  Sunday  evenings, 
neither  did  he  remain  late.  Clarissa  always  saw  him  during 
a  few  minutes  of  every  call.  Anne  insisted  upon  it 

"  He  acts  just  as  if  he  thought  you  didn't  want  him  to 
come  and  see  me,  if  you  don't,"  said  she.  "  He  said  once 
he  guessed  my  sister  didn't  like  to  have  him  calling  so 

Clarissa  did  not  have  a  doubt  as  to  how  it  would  all  end. 
She  was  certain  that  Oilman  was  fond  of  Anne.  She  thought 
also  that  her  sister  liked  him,  although  she  had  her  pretty, 
smart  way  about  it,  as  she  did  about  everything  else,  and 
laughed  rather  than  sighed. 

So  Clarissa  in  her  patient  certainty  overlooked  it  all. 
There  was  one  thing  which  she  dreaded :  that  was  any  al- 


lusion  to  the  past  She  had  a  constant  fear  lest  she  should 
chance  to  see  Oilman  when  her  sister  was  not  there.  Several 
times  she  did  not  answer  his  knock  when  Anne  was  away. 

Finally  the  roses  were  in  blossom  again.  Clarissa's  bushes 
were  wonderful  this  year.  The  front  yard  was  full  of  them. 
The  vegetable  garden  behind  the  house  had  a  broad  walk 
edged  with  them.  too. 

Clarissa  went  at  her  old  work  again.  She  moved  among 
the  rose-trees,  a  prim,  delicate  figure,  in  her  old  green-and- 
white  gown,  and  cut  every  loose  rose  carefully.  She  was 
bent,  in  her  graceful  parsimoniousness,  on  saving  all  that 
she  could  of  the  sweetness  of  the  world ;  no  matter  how 
poorly  she  might  live  herself,  her  delight  in  this  would  not 
forsake  her.  She  had  lost  love  and  youth  and  beauty,  but 
she  still  got  a  little  comfort  out  of  her  unselfishness  and  her 
roses.  One  is  not  entirely  desolate  while  one  can  follow  his 

Anne  laughed  at  her.  "  She's  gone  to  filling  jars  for  the 
neighbors  this  year,"  said  Anne.  "  She  filled  one  for  Mrs. 
Lamson  yesterday."  She  and  Oilman  were  in  the  parlor 
that  afternoon.  Oilman  laughed.  Then  he  looked  out  of 
the  window  soberly.  Clarissa  was  in  the  front  yard  tending 
her  roses. 

"  It's  real  good  of  her,"  said  he. 

"Of  course  it  is.  Clarissa  never  does  anything  that 
isn't  good,  but  she  is  so  funny." 

The  next  day  Oilman  came  over  with  a  great  bunch  of 
roses  from  his  brother's  garden.  They  were  a  different 
variety  from  any  of  Clarissa's,  and  very  sweet. 

The  two  sisters  were  in  the  garden  behind  the  house. 
He  hunted  about  until  he  found  them.  He  held  out  the 
roses  awkwardly  to  Clarissa. 


"  I  thought  maybe  you'd  like  'em,"  said  he.  "  I  guess 
they're  different  from  yours." 

"You  haven't  got  any  like  them,  have  you,  Clarissa?" 
said  Anne,  eagerly.  "  My !  I  never  saw  any  so  sweet." 

Clarissa  thanked  him.  "  I  haven't  got  any  like  them," 
said  she.  Her  voice  was  a  little  unsteady. 

Presently  she  carried  the  roses  into  the  house.  Oilman 
turned  to  Anne.  "  Look  here,"  said  he,  "  I  want  to  ask  you 

Anne  glanced  at  him.  Then  she  turned  her  head  so 
that  he  could  barely  see  the  pink  curve  of  one  cheek. 
She  began  pulling  some  roses  busily.  "I  guess  I'll  pick 
some  to  put  in  the  parlor  vases,"  said  she.  "  What  is  it  you 
wanted  to  ask  ?" 

"  I  want  to  know — I've  been  coming  here  pretty  near  a 
whole  year,  and  I  don't  seem  to  be  a  bit  nearer  finding  out 
anything  than  I  was  when  I  started.  Now  I'm  going  to  ask 
you  point-blank." 

"  Oh,  Oilman  !"  Anne  murmured.  She  moved  a  little 
farther  from  him,  then  she  came  back.  She  dropped  some 
of  her  roses. 

"  I  don't  see  as  I  can  ask  anybody  but  you.  I  can't  see 
her  alone  a  minute,  no  matter  how  hard  I  try.  Oh,  Anne, 
doesn't  she  ever  tell  you  anything  ?  Don't  you  know  if  she 
cares  anything  at  all  about  me  ?" 


"Why,  Clarissa.  Doesn't  she  ever  tell  you  anything, 

Anne  turned  her  face  farther  away.  She  was  very  white. 
Her  round  young  limbs  were  trembling.  "  Why  don't  you 
go  into  the  house  and  ask  her  ?"  she  said,  with  sweet,  shrill 
incisiveness.  "  I  should  say  that  was  the  quickest  way." 


"  She'll  run  if  she  sees  me  coming.  She  doesn't  act  as 
if  she  wanted  me  to.  Oh,  Anne,  don't  you  know  anything 
about  it  ?" 

"  No,  I  don't  know  a  thing." 

"  You  knew  we  used  to  go  together  some,  years  ago  ?" 

"  No,  I  didn't." 

"  We  weren't  engaged,  but  it  was  sort  of  understood,  I'd 
always  thought.  It  was  before  I  went  to  California.  Father'd 
lost  his  money,  and  mother  was  sick,  and  I  thought  I'd  got 
to  stir  around  and  do  something  before  I  said  much  about 
getting  married. 

"  We  wrote  to  each  other  quite  a  while.  Then  I  got  kind  of 
discouraged.  I  wasn't  doing  very  well,  and  I  didn't  see  as  I 
was  ever  coming  home.  I  had  to  send  every  dollar  I  could 
save  to  father,  and  I  began  to  think  I  couldn't  get  married 
till  I  was  an  old  man,  and  I  didn't  know  but  it  was  sort  of 
silly  to  say  anything  about  it. 

"  I  dare  say  my  letters  showed  how  I  felt.  Anyhow,  she 
didn't  write  quite  so  often,  and  then  I  heard  she'd  got  a 
beau.  That  settled  me.  I  should  have  been  home  three 
years  ago  if  I  hadn't  supposed  she  was  married.  I  didn't 
have  the  courage  to  ask.  I  did  make  up  my  mind  to  write 
and  ask  mother,  though,  finally.  I  thought  I  could  bear  it, 
and  might  as  well  know. 

"When  I  found  out  she  wasn't,  I  came  straight  here. 
But  she  acted  so  eold  and  offish  the  first  time  I  saw  her 
that  I  thought  sure  she'd  got  over  thinking  anything  of  me. 
But  once  in  a  while  she'd  seem  a  little  different,  and  I 
couldn't  tell.  Anne,  didn't  you  ever  hear  her  say  anything 
about  me  ?  Sometimes  I  think  I'm  a  fool  to  expect  she'd 
remember  anything  so  long  ago.  I  wish  I  could  see  her  just 
a  minute.  I'd  like  to  tell  her  why  I  stopped  writing,  any- 


how,  though  I  never  supposed  she  cared  much.  Her  let 
ters  had  begun  to  sound  rather  cool." 

"  I'll  go  in  and  tell  Clarissa  that  you  want  to  speak  to 
her,"  said  Anne.  "  I  don't  see  any  need  of  so  much  fuss." 
Her  voice  sounded  sweet  and  crisp.  She  swung  her  blue 
muslin  skirts  between  the  rose-bushes  with  an  air.  Her 
yellow  head  was  proudly  erect. 

"  She  looks  just  the  way  Clarissa  used  to,"  Oilman  thought, 
as  he  stared  after  her. 

Presently  she  reappeared  at  the  entrance  of  the  garden 
walk.  "  Go  right  in,"  she  called  out.  Then  she  went  around 
to  the  front  of  the  house.  "  They'll  see  I  ain't  shut  up  in 
my  room,  crying,"  she  thought  to  herself. 

She  sauntered  about  among  the  bushes,  pulling  roses  here 
and  there.  She  heard  voices  behind  the  parlor  blinds. 
Her  face  was  still  pale,  but  her  mouth  began  to  tremble  a 
little  at  the  corners.  Anne  had  a  sweet  nature.  "  It's  a 
great  joke  on  me,"  she  whispered  to  herself.  Then  she 
laughed,  with  the  most  unselfish  amusement,  in  the  midst 
of  her  girlish  chagrin  and  sorrow. 

There  was  a  bush  of  beautiful  pink  roses  down  by  the  gate. 
Anne  stood  there  picking  them  when  her  friend,  Ellen  Pier- 
son,  came  down  the  road,  and  stopped,  leaning  her  slender 
elbows  on  the  gate.  "  What  are  you  picking  so  many  roses 
for?"  asked  she. 

"  I  don't  know  but  I  shall  go  to  filling  up  jars  with  them, 
like  Clarissa,"  said  Anne. 


IT  was  snowing  hard,  as  it  had  been  for  twenty-four  hours. 
The  evergreen-trees  hung  low  with  the  snow.  Nicholas 
Gunn's  little  house  was  almost  hidden  beneath  it.  The 
snow  shelved  out  over  the  eaves,  and  clung  in  damp  masses 
to  the  walls.  Nicholas  sat  on  his  door-step,  and  the  snow 
fell  upon  him.  His  old  cap  had  become  a  tall  white  crown ; 
there  was  a  ridge  of  snow  upon  his  bent  shoulders.  He 
sat  perfectly  still ;  his  eyes  were  fixed  upon  the  weighted 
evergreens  across  the  road,  but  he  did  not  seem  to  see 
them.  He  looked  as  calmly  passive  beneath  the  storm  as 
a  Buddhist  monk. 

There  were  no  birds  stirring,  and  there  was  no  wind.  All 
the  sound  came  from  the  muffled  rustle  of  the  snow  on  the 
trees,  and  that  was  so  slight  as  to  seem  scarcely  more  than 
a  thought  of  sound.  The  road  stretched  to  the  north  and 
south  through  the  forest  of  pine  and  cedar  and  hemlock. 
Nicholas  Gunn's  was  the  only  house  in  sight. 

Stephen  Forster  came  up  the  road  from  the  southward. 
He  bent  his  head  and  struggled  along ;  the  snow  was  above 
his  knees,  and  at  every  step  he  lifted  his  feet  painfully,  as 
from  a  quicksand.  He  advanced  quite  noiselessly  until  he 
began  to  cough.  The  cough  was  deep  and  rattling,  and 
he  had  to  stand  still  in  the  snow  while  it  was  upon  him. 


Nicholas  Gunn  never  looked  up.  Stephen  bent  himself 
almost  double,  the  cough  became  a  strangle,  but  Nicholas 
kept  his  calm  eyes  fixed  upon  the  evergreens. 

At  last  Stephen  righted  himself  and  kept  on.  He  was 
very  small ;  his  clothes  were  quite  covered  with  snow,  and 
patches  of  it  clung  to  his  face.  He  looked  like  some  little 
winter-starved,  white-furred  animal,  creeping  painfully  to 
cover.  When  he  came  opposite  the  house  he  half  halted, 
but  Nicholas  never  stirred  nor  looked  his  way,  and  he  kept 
on.  It  was  all  that  he  could  do  to  move,  the  cough  had 
exhausted  him ;  he  carried  a  heavy  basket,  too. 

He  had  proceeded  only  a  few  paces  beyond  the  house 
when  his  knees  bent  under  him,  he  fairly  sank  down  into 
the  snow.  He  groaned  a  little,  but  Nicholas  did  not  turn 
his  head. 

After  a  little,  Stephen  raised  himself,  lifted  his  basket, 
and  went  staggering  back.  "  Mr.  Gunn,"  said  he. 

Nicholas  turned  his  eyes  slowly  and  looked  at  him,  but 
he  did  not  speak. 

"  Can't  I  go  into  your  house  an'  set  down  an*  rest  a  fev 
minutes  ?  I'm  'most  beat  out." 

"  No,  you  can't,"  replied  Nicholas  Gunn. 

"  I  dun'  know  as  I  can  git  home." 

Nicholas  made  no  rejoinder.  He  turned  his  eyes  away. 
Stephen  stood  looking  piteously  at  him.  His  sharply  cut 
delicate  face  gleamed  white  through  the  white  fall  of  the 

"  If  you'd  jest  let  me  set  there  a  few  minutes,"  he  said. 

Nicholas  sat  immovable. 

Stephen  tried  to  walk  on,  but  suddenly  another  coughing- 
fit  seized  him.  He  stumbled  across  the  road,  and  propped 
himself  against  a  pine-tree,  setting  the  basket  down  in  the 

A   SOLITARY.  217 

snow.  He  twisted  himself  about  the  snowy  tree  trunk,  and 
the  coughs  came  in  a  rattling  volley. 

Nicholas  Gunn  looked  across  at  him,  and  waited  until 
Stephen  got  his  breath.  Then  he  spoke.  "  Look  a-here !" 
said  he. 

"What  say?" 

"  If  you  want  to  set  in  the  house  a  few  minutes,  you  can. 
There  ain't  no  fire  there." 

"Thank  ye." 

It  was  some  time  before  Stephen  Forster  gathered 
strength  enough  to  return  across  the  road  to  the  house. 
He  leaned  against  the  tree,  panting,  the  tears  running  down 
his  cheeks.  Nicholas  did  not  offer  to  help  him.  When  at 
last  Stephen  got  across  the  road,  he  arose  to  let  him  pass 
through  the  door ;  then  he  sat  down  again  on  the  door-step. 

Stephen  Forster  set  his  basket  on  the  floor,  and  staggered 
across  the  room  to  a  chair.  He  leaned  his  head  back 
against  the  wall  and  panted.  The  room  was  bitterly  cold; 
the  snow  drifted  in  through  the  open  door  where  Nicholas 
sat.  There  was  no  furniture  except  a  cooking-stove,  a  cot 
bed,  one  chair,  and  a  table ;  but  there  were  ornaments. 
Upon  the  walls  hung  various  little  worsted  and  cardboard 
decorations.  There  was  a  lamp-mat  on  the  table,  and  in 
one  corner  was  a  rude  bracket  holding  a  bouquet  of  wax 
flowers  under  a  tall  glass  shade.  There  was  also  a  shelf 
full  of  books  beside  the  window. 

Stephen  Forster  did  not  notice  anything.  He  sat  with 
his  eyes  closed.  Once  or  twice  he  tried  feebly  to  brush  the 
snow  off  his  clothes,  that  was  all.  Nicholas  never  turned 
his  head.  He  looked  like  a  stone  image  there  in  the  door 
way.  In  about  twenty  minutes  Stephen  arose,  took  his 
basket  up,  and  went  timidly  to  the  door. 

aig  A  SOLITARY. 

"  I'm  much  obleeged  to  ye,  Mr.  Gunn,"  said  he.  "  I  guess 
I  can  git  along  now." 

Nicholas  got  up,  and  the  snow  fell  from  his  shoulders  in 
great  cakes.  He  stood  aside  to  let  Stephen  pass.  Stephen, 
outside  the  door,  paused,  and  looked  up  at  him. 

"  I'm  much  obleeged  to  ye,"  he  said  again.  "  I  guess  I 
can  git  home  now.  I  had  them  three  coughin'-spells  after 
I  left  the  store,  and  I  got  'most  beat  out." 

Nicholas  grunted,  and  sat  down  again.  Stephen  looked 
at  him  a  minute,  then  he  smiled  abashedly  and  went  away, 
urging  his  feeble  little  body  through  the  storm.  Nicholas 
watched  him,  then  he  turned  his  head  with  a  stiff  jerk. 

"  If  he  wants  to  go  out  in  such  weather,  he  can.  I  don't 
care,"  he  muttered. 

It  was  nearly  four  o'clock  in  the  afternoon,  the  snow  was 
gradually  ceasing.  Presently  a  yellow  light  could  be  seen 
through  the  woods  in  the  west.  Some  birds  flew  into  one 
of  the  snowy  trees,  a  wood-sled  creaked  down  the  road,  the 
driver  stared  at  Nicholas  in  the  doorway,  he  turned  his  head 
and  stared  again.  It  was  evident  that  he  was  not  one  of  the 
village  people.  They  had  witnessed  the  peculiarities  of 
Nicholas  Gunn  for  the  last  six  years.  They  still  stared,  but 
not  as  assiduously. 

The  driver  of  the  wood-sled,  as  soon  as  he  went  down 
the  slope  in  the  road,  and  could  no  longer  see  Nicholas,  be 
gan  to  whistle.  The  whistle  floated  back  like  a  wake  of 
merry  sound. 

Presently  Nicholas  arose,  took  off  his  cap,  and  beat  it 
against  the  door-post  to  rid  it  of  its  dome  of  snow ;  then 
he  shook  himself  like  a  dog,  and  stamped ;  then  he  went 
into  the  house,  and  stood  looking  irresolutely  at  the  cold 

A  SOLITARY.  219 

"  Should  like  a  fire  to  heat  up  my  hasty-puddin'  mighty 
well,  so — I  won't  have  it,"  said  he. 

He  took  a  wooden  bucket,  and  went  with  it  out  of  doors, 
around  the  house,  over  a  snow-covered  path,  to  a  spring. 
The  water  trickled  into  its  little  basin  from  under  a  hood 
of  snow.  Nicholas  plunged  in  his  bucket,  withdrew  it 
filled  with  water,  and  carried  it  back  to  the  house.  The 
path  led  through  the  woods  ;  all  the  trees  and  bushes  were 
white  arcs.  Some  of  the  low  branches  bowed  over  the  path, 
and  Nicholas,  passing  under  them,  had  to  stoop. 

Nicholas,  back  in  his  house,  got  a  bowl  out  of  a  rude 
closet ;  it  was  nearly  full  of  cold  hasty-pudding.  He  stood 
there  and  swallowed  it  in  great  gulps. 

The  light  was  waning  fast,  although  it  lasted  longer  than 
usual  on  account  of  the  snow,  which,  now  the  clouds  wera 
gone,  was  almost  like  a  sheet  of  white  light. 

Nicholas,  when  he  had  finished  his  supper,  plunged 
out  again  into  this  pale  dusk.  He  tramped,  knee-deep, 
down  the  road  for  a  long  way.  He  reached  the  little 
village  centre,  left  it  behind,  and  went  on  between  white 
meadow-lands  and  stretches  of  woods.  Once  in  a  while  he 
met  a  man  plodding  down  to  the  store,  but  there  were  few 
people  abroad,  the  road  would  not  be  cleared  until  morn 

Finally  Nicholas  turned  about,  and  went  back  until  he 
reached  the  village  store.  Its  windows  and  glass  door  were 
full  of  yellow  light,  in  which  one  could  see  many  heads 
moving.  When  Nicholas  opened  the  clanging  door  and 
went  in,  all  the  heads  turned  towards  him.  There  was 
hardly  a  man  there  as  tall  as  he.  He  went  across  the  store 
with  a  kind  of  muscular  shamble ;  his  head,  with  its  wild 
light  beard,  had  a  lofty  lift  to  it.  The  lounging  men  watched 

220  A  SOLITARY. 

him  furtively  as  he  bought  some  Indian  meal  and  matches 
at  the  counter.  When  he  had  gone  out  with  his  purchases 
there  was  a  burst  of  laughter.  The  store-keeper  thrust  a 
small  sharp  face  over  the  counter. 

"  If  a  man  is  such  a  darned  fool  as  to  live  on  meal  and 
matches,  I  ain't  got  nothin'  to  say,  so  long  as  he  pays  me 
the  money  down,"  said  he.  He  had  a  hoarse  cold,  and  his 
voice  was  a  facetious  whisper. 

There  was  another  shout  of  laughter;  Nicholas  could 
hear  it  as  he  went  down  the  street.  The  stranger  who  had 
driven  the  wood-sled  past  Nicholas's  house  was  among  the 
men.  He  was  snow-bound  overnight  in  the  village.  He 
was  a  young  fellow,  with  innocent  eyes  and  a  hanging  jaw. 
He  nudged  the  man  next  him. 

"  What  in  creation  ails  the  fellar,  anyhow?"  said  he.  "  I 
seed  him  a-settin'  on  his  door-step  this  afternoon,  and  the 
snow  a-drivin*  right  on  him." 

"  He  ain't  right  in  his  upper  story,"  replied  the  man. 
"  Somethin'  went  again  him  ;  his  wife  run  off  with  another 
fellar,  or  something  an1  he's  cracked." 

"  Why  don't  they  shet  him  up  ?" 

"  He  ain't  dangerous.  Reckon  he  won't  hurt  nobody 
but  himself.  If  he  wants  to  set  out  in  a  drivin'  snow-storm, 
and  tramp  till  he's  tuckered  out,  it  ain't  nothin'  to  nobody 
else  but  himself.  There  ain't  no  use  bringin'  that  kind  of 
crazy  on  the  town." 

"  'Twouldn't  cost  the  town  much,"  chimed  in  another 
man.  "  He's  worth  property.  Shouldn't  be  surprised  if  he 
was  worth  three  thousand  dollars.  And  there  he  is  a-livin' 
on  corn  meal  and  water." 

An  old  man,  in  a  leather-cushioned  arm-chair  beside  the 
stove,  turned  his  grizzly  quizzical  face  toward  the  others,  and 

A  SOLITARY.  221 

cleared  his  throat.     They  all  bent  forward  attentively.    He 
had  a  reputation  for  wit. 

"  Makes  me  think  of  old  Eph  Huntly,  and  the  story 
Squire  Morse  used  to  tell  about  him,"  said  he.  He  paused 
impressively,  and  they  waited.  Then  he  went  on.  "  Seems 
old  Eph  got  terrible  hard  up  one  time.  One  thing  after  an 
other  went  again  him.  He'd  been  laid  up  with  the  rheu- 
matiz  all  winter ;  then  his  wife  she'd  been  sick,  an'  they  was 
'most  eat  up  with  medicine  an'  doctors'  bills.  Then  his  hay 
crop  had  failed,  an'  his  pertaters  had  rotted,  an'  finally,  to 
cap  the  climax,  his  best  cow  died,  an'  the  int'rest  money 
was  due  on  the  mortgage,  an'  he  didn't  have  a  cent  to 
pay  it  with.  Well,  he  couldn't  raise  the  money  nohow, 
an'  the  day  come  when  he  s'posed  the  farm  would  have  to 
go.  Lawyer  Holmes  he  held  the  mortgage,  an'  he  expected 
to  see  him  drive  into  the  yard  any  time.  Well,  old  Eph  he 
jest  goes  out  in  the  yard,  an'  he  ketches  a  nice  fat  crower, 
an'  he  kills  him,  an'  picks  him.  Then  he  takes  him  in  to  his 
wife.  She  was  takin'  on  terrible  'cause  she  thought  the 
farm  had  got  to  go,  an'  sez  he,  *  Sukey  Ann,  I  want  you  to 
go  an'  cook  this  crower  jest  as  good  as  you  know  how/ 
*  Oh,  Lor' !'  sez  she,  *  I  don't  want  no  crower,'  an'  she  boo- 
hooed  right  out.  But  old  Eph  he  made  her  go  an'  stuff 
that  crower,  an'  cook  him,  an'  bile  onions,  turnips,  an' 
squash,  an'  all  the  fixin's.  He  said  he  never  felt  so  bad  in 
his  life,  an'  he  never  got  to  sech  a  desprit  pitch,  an'  he  was 
goin'  to  have  a  good  dinner  anyhow.  Well,  it  so  happened 
that  Lawyer  Holmes  he  driv  into  the  yard  jest  as  old  Eph 
an'  his  wife  were  settin'  down  to  dinner,  an'  he  see  that 
nice  baked  crower  an'  the  fixin's  all  set  out,  an'  he  didn't 
know  what  to  make  on't.  It  seemed  to  him  Eph  couldn't 
be  so  dreadful  bad  off,  or  he  wouldn't  have  any  heart  for 

222  A   SOLITARY. 

extra  dinners,  an'  mebbe  he  had  some  way  of  raisin'  the 
money  in  prospect.  Then  Lawyer  Holmes  he  was  mighty 
fond  of  his  victuals  himself,  an'  the  upshot  of  it  was,  he  sot 
down  to  the  table,  an'  eat  a  good  meal  of  the  crower  an' 
fixin's,  an'  there  wa'n't  no  mortgage  foreclosed  that  day, 
an'  before  long  Eph  he  managed  to  raise  the  money  some 
how.  Now  if  Nicholas  Gunn  jest  had  a  leetle  grain  of  old 
Eph's  sense,  he'd  jest  git  better  victuals  the  wuss  he  felt,  an' 
let  one  kinder  make  up  for  t'other,  instead  of  livin'  on  Injun 
meal  an'  matches.  I  ruther  guess  I  wouldn't  take  to  no 
meal  an'  matches  if  my  Ann  Lizy  left  me.  I'd  live  jest  as 
high  as  I  could  to  keep  my  spirits  up." 

There  was  a  burst  of  applause.  The  old  man  sat  wink 
ing  and  grinning  complacently. 

"  Nicholas  Gunn  is  a  darned  fool,  or  else  he's  cracked," 
said  the  storekeeper  in  his  hoarse  whisper. 

Meanwhile  Nicholas  Gunn  went  home.  He  put  his 
meal  away  in  the  closet ;  he  lighted  a  candle  with  one  of 
his  matches ;  he  read  awhile  in  the  Bible  ;  then  he  went  to 
bed.  He  did  not  sleep  in  the  cot  bed ;  that  was  too  luxurious 
for  him.  He  slept,  rolled  in  a  blanket,  on  the  bare  floor. 

Nicholas  Gunn,  whether  his  eccentricities  arose  from 
mystical  religious  fervor  or  from  his  own  personal  sorrows, 
would  have  been  revered  and  worshipped  as  a  saintly  as 
cetic  among  some  nations  ;  among  New-Englanders  he  met 
with  the  coarse  ridicule  of  the  loafers  in  a  country  store. 
Idle  meditation  and  mortification  of  the  flesh,  except  for 
gain,  were  among  them  irreconcilable  with  sanity.  Nicholas 
would  have  had  more  prestige  had  he  fled  to  the  Himalayas 
and  built  himself  a  cell  in  some  wild  pass ;  however,  prestige 
was  not  what  he  sought. 

The  next  morning  a  wind  had  arisen  ;  it  blew  stiff  and 

A   SOLITARY.  223 

cold  from  the  north.  The  snow  was  drifted  into  long 
waves,  and  looked  like  a  frozen  sea.  A  flock  of  sparrows 
had  collected  before  Nicholas  Gunn's  door,  and  he  stood 
watching  them.  They  were  searching  for  crumbs ;  this 
deep  snow  had  shortened  their  resources  wofully ;  all  their 
larders  were  buried.  There  were  no  crumbs  before  this 
door ;  but  they  searched  assiduously,  with  their  feathers 
ruffled  in  the  wind.  Stephen  Forster  came  up  the  road 
with  his  market-basket ;  it  was  all  he  could  do  to  face  the 
wind.  His  thin  coat  was  buttoned  tight  across  his  narrow 
shoulders;  his  old  tippet  blew  out.  He  advanced  with  a 
kind  of  sidewise  motion,  presenting  his  body  like  a  wedge 
to  the  wind  ;  he  could  not  walk  fairly  against  it. 

When  he  was  opposite  Nicholas,  the  sparrows  flew  up 
at  his  feet ;  he  paused,  and  shifted  his  basket.  "  Good- 
mornin',  Mr.  Gunn,"  said  he,  in  a  weak  voice. 

Nicholas  nodded.  Stephen's  face  was  mottled  with  pur 
ple  ;  his  nose  and  mouth  looked  shrunken  ;  his  shoes  were 
heavy  with  snow. 

"  If  you  want  to  go  in  an'  set  down  a  few  minutes,  you 
can,"  said  Nicholas. 

Stephen  moved  forward  eagerly.  "  Thank  ye,  Mr.  Gunn,  I 
am  kinder  beat  out,  an'  I'd  like  to  set  a  few  minutes,"  he  said. 

He  went  in  and  sat  down.  The  wind  rushed  in  great 
gusts  past  the  open  door.  Stephen  began  to  cough. 
Nicholas  hesitated,  his  face  was  surly,  then  he  shut  the 
door  with  a  bang. 

While  Stephen  rested  himself  in  the  house,  Nicholas 
marched  up  and  down  before  it  like  a  sentinel.  He  did 
not  seem  to  see  Stephen  when  he  came  out,  but  he  stood 
before  him  in  his  track. 

"  I'm  much  obleeged,  Mr.  Gunn,"  said  he. 

224  *  SOLITARY. 

Nicholas  nodded.  Stephen  hesitated  a  minute,  then  he 
went  on  up  the  road.  The  snow  blew  up  around  him  in  a 
dazzling  cloud,  and  almost  hid  him  from  sight. 

"  It's  the  last  time  I  do  it,"  muttered  Nicholas. 

But  it  was  not.  Every  morning,  storm  or  shine,  Stephen 
Forster  toiled  painfully  over  the  road  with  his  market- 
basket,  and  every  morning  Nicholas  Gunn  invited  him  into 
his  tireless  hermitage  to  resf  A  freezing  hospitality,  but 
he  offered  it,  and  Stephen  accepted  it  with  a  fervent  grati 

It  grew  apparently  more  and  more  necessary.  Stephen 
crept  more  and  more  feebly  over  the  road ;  he  had  to  keep 
setting  his  basket  down.  Nicholas  never  asked  him  if  he 
were  ill,  he  never  questioned  him  at  all,  although  he  knew 
nothing  about  him  but  his  name.  Nicholas  did  not  know 
the  names  even  of  many  of  the  village  people  ;  he  had  never 
offered  nor  invited  confidences.  Stephen  also  did  not 
volunteer  any  information  as  to  his  circumstances  during 
his  morning  calls  upon  Nicholas ;  indeed,  he  was  too  ex 
hausted  ;  he  merely  gave  his  gentle  and  timid  thanks  for  the 

There  came  a  night  in  January  when  the  cold  reached 
the  greatest  intensity  of  the  season.  The  snow  creaked 
underfoot,  the  air  was  full  of  sparkles,  there  were  noises 
like  guns  in  the  woods,  for  the  trees  were  almost  freezing 
The  moon  was  full,  and  seemed  like  a  very  fire  of  death, 
radiating  cold  instead  of  heat. 

Nicholas  Gunn,  stern  anchorite  that  he  was,  could  not 
sleep  for  the  cold.  He  got  up  and  paced  his  room.  He 
would  not  kindle  a  fire  in  the  stove.  He  swung  his  arms 
and  stamped.  Suddenly  he  heard  a  voice  outside.  It 
sounded  almost  like  a  child's.  "  Mr.  Gunn  1"  it  cried. 

A   SOLITARY.  32^ 

Nicholas  stopped  and  listened.  It  came  agaih  -"Mr, 
— Gunn  !" 

"  Who's  there  ?"  Nicholas  sung  out,  gruffly. 

"It's— me." 

Then  Nicholas  knew  it  was  Stephen  Forster.  He  opened 
the  door,  and  Stephen  stood  there  in  the  moonlight. 

"  What  are  ye  out  for  this  time  of  night  ?"  asked  Nicho 

Stephen  chattered  so  that  he  could  hardly  speak.  He 
cowered  before  Nicholas ;  the  moonlight  seemed  to  strike 
his  little,  shivering  form  like  a  broadside  of  icy  spears. 
"  I'm  'fraid  I'm  freezin',"  he  gasped.  "  Can't  ye  take  me 

"  What  are  ye  out  for  this  time  of  night  ?"  repeated  Nicho 
las,  in  a  rough,  loud  tone. 

"  I  had  to.  I'll  tell  you  when  I  git  a  leetle  warmer.  I 
dun'  know  but — I'm  freezin'." 

Stephen's  voice,  indeed,  sounded  as  if  ice  were  forming 
over  it,  muffling  it.  Nicholas  suddenly  grasped  him  by  one 

"  Come  in,  then,  if  ye've  got  to,"  he  growled. 

He  pulled  so  suddenly  and  strongly  that  Stephen  made 
a  run  into  the  house,  and  his  heels  flew  up  weakly.  Nicho 
las  whirled  him  about  and  seated  him  on  his  cot  bed. 

"  Now  lay  down  here,"  he  ordered,  "  and  I'll  cover  ye  up." 

Stephen  obeyed.  Nicholas  pulled  off  his  boots,  gave  his 
feet  a  fierce  rub,  and  fixed  the  coverings  over  him  with 
rough  energy.  Then  he  began  pacing  the  room  again. 

Presently  he  went  up  to  the  bed.     "  Warmer  ?" 

"  I  guess — so."  Stephen's  shivering  seemed  to  shake  the 

Nicholas  hustled  a  coat  off  of  a  peg,  and  put  it  over  Ste- 

226  A   SOLITARY. 

phen.  Then  he  paced  again.  Stephen  began  to  cough. 
Nicholas  made  an  exclamation,  and  stamped  angrily  out  of 
the  house.  There  was  a  little  lean-to  at  the  back,  and  there 
was  some  fuel  stored  in  it.  Nicholas  came  back  quickly 
with  his  arms  full  of  wood.  He  piled  it  into  the  stove,  set 
a  match  to  it.  and  put  on  a  kettle  of  water.  Then  he 
dragged  the  cot  bed,  with  Stephen  on  it,  close  to  the  stove, 
and  began  to  rub  him  under  the  bedclothes.  His  face  was 
knit  savagely,  but  he  rubbed  with  a  tender  strength. 

"Warmer?"  said  he. 

"  Yes,  I — be,"  returned  Stephen,  gratefully. 

The  fire  burned  briskly  ;  the  sharp  air  began  to  soften. 
Soon  the  kettle  steamed.  Nicholas  got  a  measure  of  meal 
out  of  his  cupboard,  and  prepared  some  porridge  in  a  little 
stewpan.  When  it  began  to  boil,  he  bent  over  the  stove 
and  stirred  carefully,  lest  it  should  lump.  When  it  was 
thick  enough,  he  dished  it,  salted  it,  and  carried  it  to  Ste 

"There,  eat  it,"  said  he.  "It's  the  best  I've  got;  it  '11 
warm  ye  some.  I  ain't  got  no  spirits ;  never  keep  any  in 
the  house." 

"  I  guess  I  ain't — very  hungry,  Mr.  Gunn,"  said  Stephen, 

"  Eat  it." 

Stephen  raised  himself,  and  drained  the  bowl  with  con 
vulsive  gulps.  Tears  stood  in  his  eyes,  and  he  gasped 
when  he  lay  back  again.  However,  the  warm  porridge 
revived  him.  Presently  he  looked  at  Nicholas,  who  was 
putting  more  wood  on  the  fire. 

"  I  s'pose  you  think  it's  terrible  queer  that  I  come  here 
this  way,"  said  he;  "but  there  wa'n't  no  other  way.  I 
dun'  know  whether  you  know  how  I've  been  livin'  or  not." 

A   SOLITARY.  227 

"No,  I  don't." 

"  Well,  I've  been  livin'  with  my  half-sister,  Mis'  Morri 
son.  Mebbe  you've  heard  of  her?" 

"  No,  I  ain't." 

"She  keeps  boarders.  We  ain't  lived  in  this  town 
more'n  three  years  j  we  moved  here  from  Jackson.  Mis' 
Morrison's  husband's  dead,  so  she  keeps  boarders.  She's 
consider'ble  older'n  me.  I  ain't  never  been  very  stout,  but 
I  used  to  tend  in  a  store  till  I  got  worse.  I  coughed  so,  it 
used  to  plague  the  customers.  Then  I  had  to  give  it  up, 
and  when  Mis'  Morrison's  husband  died,  and  she  come 
here,  I  come  with  her ;  she  thought  there'd  be  some  chores 
1  could  do  for  my  board.  An'  I've  worked  jest  as  hard  as 
I  could,  an'  I  ain't  complained.  I've  been  down  to  the 
store  to  get  meat  for  the  boarders'  dinner  when  I  couldn't 
scarcely  get  along  over  the  ground.  But  I  cough  so  bad 
nights  that  the  boarders  they  complain,  an'  Mis'  Morrison 
says  I  must  go  to — the  poor-house.  I  heard  her  talkin'  with 
the  hired  girl  about  it.  She's  goin'  to  get  the  selectmen  to 
the  house  to-morrow  mornin'.  An' — I  ain't  a-goin'  to  the 
poor-house  !  None  of  my  folks  have  ever  been  there,  an'  I 
ain't  goin' !  I'll  risk  it  but  what  I  can  get  some  work  to 
do.  I  ain't  quite  so  fur  gone  yet.  I  waited  till  the  house 
was  still,  an'  then  I  cut.  I  thought  if  you'd  take  me  in  till 
mornin',  I  could  git  down  to  the  depot,  an'  go  to  Jackson 
before  the  selectmen  come.  I've  got  a  little  money — 
enough  to  take  me  to  Jackson — I've  been  savin'  of  it  up 
these  three  years,  in  case  anything  happened.  It's  some  I 
earned  tendin'  store.  I'm  willin'  to  pay  you  for  my  night's 

Nicholas  nodded  grimly.  He  had  stood  still,  listening  to 
the  weak,  high-pitched  voice  from  the  bed. 

228  A   SOLITARY. 

"  It's  in  my  vest  pocket,  in  my  pocketbook,"  said  Ste 
phen.  "  If  you'll  come  here,  I'll  give  it  to  you,  and  you 
can  take  what  you  think  it's  worth.  I  pinned  the  pocket 
up,  so's  to  be  sure  I  didn't  lose  it." 

Stephen  began  fumbling  at  his  vest.  Nicholas  lifted  a 
cover  from  the  stove. 

"  I  don't  want  none  of  your  money,"  said  he.  "  Keep 
your  money." 

"  I've  got  enough  to  pay  you,  an'  take  me  to  Jackson." 

"  I  tell  ye,  stop  talkin'  about  your  money." 

Stephen  said  no  more ;  he  looked  terrified.  The  air 
grew  warmer.  Everything  was  quiet,  except  for  the  de 
tonations  of  the  frost  in  the  forest  outside,  and  its  sharp 
cracks  in  the  house  walls.  Soon  Stephen  fell  asleep, 
and  lay  breathing  short  and  hard.  Nicholas  sat  beside 

It  was  broad  daylight  when  Stephen  aroused  himself. 
He  awoke  suddenly  and  completely,  and  began  to  get  out 
of  bed.  "I  guess  it's  time  I  was  goin',"  said  he.  "I'm 
much  obleeged  to  you,  Mr.  Gunn." 

"  You  lay  still." 

Stephen  looked  at  him. 

"  You  lay  still,"  repeated  Nicholas. 

Stephen  sank  back  irresolutely ;  his  timid,  bewildered 
eyes  followed  Nicholas,  who  was  smoothing  his  hair  and 
beard  before  a  little  looking-glass  near  the  window.  There 
was  a  good  fire  in  the  cooking-stove,  and  the  room  was 
quite  warm,  although  it  was  evidently  a  very  cold  day. 
The  two  windows  were  thickly  coated  with  frost,  and  the 
room  was  full  of  dim  white  light.  One  of  the  windows 
faced  towards  the  east,  but  the  sun  was  still  hidden  by  the 
trees  across  the  road. 

A  SOLITARY.  229 

Nicholas  smoothed  his  hair  and  his  wild  beard  slowly  and 

Stephen  watched  him.     "  Mr.  Gunn,"  he  said,  at  length. 

"  What  say  ?" 

"  I'm  afraid — I  sha'n't  get  to  the  depot  before  the  train 
goes  if  I  don't  start  pretty  soon." 

Nicholas  went  on  smoothing  his  beard.  At  length  he 
laid  his  comb  down  and  turned  around.  "  Look  a-here !" 
said  he  ;  "you  might  jest  as  well  understand  it.  You  ain't 
a-goin'  to  any  depot  to-day,  an'  you  ain't  a-goin'  to  any 
train,  an'  you  ain't  a-goin'  to  any  depot  to-morrow  nor  any 
train,  an'  you  ain't  a-goin'  the  next  day,  nor  the  next,  nor 
the  next,  nor  the  next  after  that." 

"What  be  I  a-goin' to  do?" 

"  You  are  a-goin'  to  stay  jest  where  you  are.  I've  fought 
against  your  comin'  as  long  as  I  could,  an'  now  you've 
come,  an'  I've  turned  the  corner,  you  are  a-goin'  to  stay. 
When  I've  been  walkin'  in  the  teeth  of  my  own  will  on  one 
road,  an'  havin'  all  I  could  do  to  breast  it,  I  ain't  a-goin' 
to  do  it  on  another.  I've  give  up,  an'  I'm  a-goin  to  stay 
give  up.  You  lay  still." 

Stephen's  small  anxious  face  on  the  pillow  looked  almost 
childish.  His  helplessness  of  illness  seemed  to  produce 
the  same  expression  as  the  helplessness  of  infancy.  His 
hollow,  innocent  blue  eyes  were  fixed  upon  Nicholas  with 
blank  inquiry.  "  Won't  Mis'  Morrison  be  after  me  ?"  he 
asked,  finally. 

"  No,  she  won't.  Don't  you  worry.  I'm  a-goin'  over  to 
see  her.  You  lay  still."  Nicholas  shook  his  coat  before 
he  put  it  on ;  he  beat  his  cap  against  the  wall,  then  ad 
justed  it  carefully.  "Now,"  said  he,  "I'm  a-goin'.  I've 
left  enough  wood  in  the  stove,  an'  I  guess  it  '11  keep  warm 

2 30  A   SOLITARY. 

till  I  get  back.  I  sha'n't  be  gone  any  longer  than  I  can 

"  Mr.  Gunn  !" 

"  What  say  ?" 

"I  ruther  guess  I'd  better  be  a-goin'." 

Nicholas  looked  sternly  at  Stephen.  "You  lay  still,"  he 
repeated.  "  Don't  you  try  to  get  up  whilst  I'm  gone  ;  you 
ain't  fit  to.  Don't  you  worry.  I'm  goin'  to  fix  it  all  right. 
I'm  goin'  to  bring  you  something  nice  for  breakfast.  You 
lay  still." 

Stephen  stared  at  him,  his  thin  shoulders  hitched  un 
easily  under  the  coverlid. 

"  You're  goin'  to  lay  still,  ain't  you  ?"  repeated  Nicholas. 

"Yes;  I  will,  if  you  say  so,"  replied  Stephen.  He 
sighed  and  smiled  feebly. 

The  truth  was  that  this  poor  cot  in  the  warm  room 
seemed  to  him  like  a  couch  under  the  balsam-dropping 
cedars  of  Lebanon,  and  all  at  once  he  felt  that  divine  rest 
which  comes  from  leaning  upon  the  will  of  another. 

"Well,  I  do  say  so,"  returned  Nicholas.  He  looked  at 
the  fire  again,  then  he  went  out.  He  turned  in  the  door 
way,  and  nodded  admonishingly  at  Stephen.  "  Mind  you 
don't  try  to  get  up,"  he  said  again. 

Nicholas  went  out  of  sight  down  the  road,  taking  long 
strides  over  the  creaking  snow.  He  was  gone  about  a 
half-hour.  When  he  returned,  his  arms  were  full  of  pack 
ages.  He  opened  the  door,  and  looked  anxiously  at  the 
bed.  Stephen  twisted  his  face  towards  him  and  smiled. 
Nicholas  piled  the  packages  up  on  the  table,  and  lifted  a 

"I've  seen  Mis'  Morrison,  and  it's  all  right,"  said  he. 

"What  did  she  say  ?"  asked  Stephen,  in  an  awecj  voice. 

A   SOLITARY.  231 

"Well,  she  didn't  say  much  of  anything.  She  was  fryin' 
griddle-cakes  for  the  boarders'  breakfasts.  She  said  she 
felt  real  bad  about  lettin'  you  go,  but  she  didn't  see  no 
other  way,  an'  she'd  be  glad  to  have  you  visit  me  jest  as 
long  as  you  wanted  to.  She's  goin'  to  pack  up  your  clothes." 

"I  ain't  got  many  clothes.  There's  my  old  coat  an' 
vest  an'  my  other  pants,  but  they're  'most  worn  out.  I 
ain't  got  but  one  real  good  shirt  besides  this  one  I've  got 
on.  That  was  in  the  wash,  or  I'd  brought  it." 

"  Clothes  enough,"  said  Nicholas. 

He  crammed  the  stove  with  wood,  and  began  undoing 
the  packages.  There  were  coffee,  bread,  and  butter,  some 
little  delicate  sugar  cookies,  some  slices  of  ham,  and  eggs. 
There  were  also  a  pail  of  milk  and  a  new  tin  coffee-pot. 

Nicholas  worked  busily.  He  made  coffee,  fried  the  ham 
and  eggs,  and  toasted  slices  of  bread.  When  everything 
was  ready,  he  carried  a  bowl  of  water  to  Stephen  for  him  to 
wash  his  hands  and  face  before  breakfast.  He  even  got  his 
comb,  and  smoothed  his  hair. 

Then  he  set  the  breakfast  out  on  the  table,  and  brought 
it  up  to  the  bedside.  He  had  placed  a  chair  for  himself, 
and  was  just  sitting  down,  when  he  stopped  suddenly.  "  I 
don't  know  as  it's  just  fair  for  me  not  to  tell  you  a  little 
something  about  myself  before  we  really  begin  livin'  to 
gether,"  said  he.  "It  won't  take  but  a  minute.  I  don't 
know  but  you've  heard  stories  about  me  that  I  wa'n't  quite 
right.  Well,  I  am  ;  that  is,  I  s'pose  I  am.  All  is,  I've  had 
lots  of  trouble,  an'  it  come  mainly  through  folks  I  set  by  j 
an'  I  figured  out  a  way  to  get  the  better  of  it.  I  figured 
out  that  if  I  didn't  care  anything  for  anybody,  I  shouldn't 
have  no  trouble  from  'em ;  an'  if  I  didn't  care  anything  for 
myself,  I  shouldn't  have  any  from  myself.  I  'bout  made 

232  A  SOLITARY. 

up  my  mind  that  all  the  trouble  an'  wickedness  in  this 
world  come  from  carin'  about  yourself  or  somebody  else, 
so  I  thought  I'd  quit  it.  I  let  folks  alone,  an'  I  wouldn't 
do  anything  for  'em ;  an'  I  let  myself  alone  as  near  as  I 
could,  an'  didn't  do  anything  for  myself.  I  kept  cold  when 
I  wanted  to  be  warm,  an'  warm  when  I  wanted  to  be  cold. 
I  didn't  eat  anything  I  liked,  an'  I  left  things  around  that 
hurt  me  to  see.  My  wife  she  made  them  wax  flowers  an' 
them  gimcracks.  Then  I  used  to  read  the  Bible,  'cause  I 
used  to  believe  in  it  an'  didn't  now,  an'  it  made  me  feel 
worse.  I  did  about  everything  I  could  to  spite  myself,  an' 
get  all  the  feelin'  out  of  me,  so  I  could  be  a  little  easier  in 
my  mind." 

Nicholas  paused  a  moment.  Stephen  was  looking  at 
him  with  bewildered  intensity. 

"  Well,  I  was  all  wrong,"  Nicholas  went  on.  "  I've  give 
it  all  up.  I've  got  to  go  through  with  the  whole  of  it  like 
other  folks,  an'  I  guess  I've  got  grit  enough.  I've  made  up 
my  mind  that  men's  tracks  cover  the  whole  world,  and 
there  ain't  standin'-room  outside  of  'em.  I've  got  to  go 
with  the  rest.  Now  we'll  have  breakfast." 

Nicholas  ate  heartily ;  it  was  long  since  he  had  tasted  such 
food ;  even  Stephen  had  quite  an  appetite.  Nicholas  pressed 
the  food  upon  him  ;  his  face  was  radiant  with  kindness  and 
delight.  Stephen  Forster,  innocent,  honest,  and  simple- 
hearted,  did  not  in  the  least  understand  him,  but  that  did  not 
matter.  There  is  a  higher  congeniality  than  that  of  mutual 
understanding;  there  is  that  of  need  and  supply. 

After  breakfast  Nicholas  cleared  away  the  dishes  and 
washed  them.  The  sun  was  so  high  then  that  it  struck 
the  windows,  and  the  frost-work  sparkled  like  diamonds. 

Nicholas  opened  the  door;  he  was  going  down  to  the  spring 

A  SOLITARY.  333 

for  more  water ;  he  saw  a  flock  of  sparrows  in  the  bushes 
across  the  road,  and  stopped ;  then  he  set  his  pail  down 
noiselessly  and  went  back  for  a  piece  of  bread.  He  broke 
it  and  scattered  the  crumbs  before  the  door,  then  went  off  a 
little  way  and  stood  watching.  When  the  sparrows  settled 
down  upon  the  crumbs  he  laughed  softly,  and  went  on  to 
wards  the  spring  over  the  shining  crust  of  snow. 


OUT  in  front  of  the  cemetery  stood  a  white  horse  and  a 
covered  wagon.  The  horse  was  not  tied,  but  she  stood 
quite  still,  her  four  feet  widely  and  ponderously  planted, 
her  meek  white  head  hanging.  Shadows  of  leaves  danced 
on  her  back.  There  were  many  trees  about  the  cemetery, 
and  the  foliage  was  unusually  luxuriant  for  May.  The  four 
women  who  had  come  in  the  covered  wagon  remarked  it. 
"  I  never  saw  the  trees  so  forward  as  they  are  this  year, 
seems  to  me,"  said  one,  gazing  up  at  some  magnificent 
gold-green  branches  over  her  head. 

"  I  was  sayin'  so  to  Mary  this  mornm',"  rejoined  another. 
"  They're  uncommon  forward,  I  think." 

They  loitered  along  the  narrow  lanes  between  the  lots — 
four  homely,  middle-aged  women,  with  decorous  and  sub 
dued  enjoyment  in  their  worn  faces.  They  read  with  peace 
ful  curiosity  and  interest  the  inscriptions  on  the  stones ; 
they  turned  aside  to  look  at  the  tender,  newly  blossomed 
spring  bushes — the  flowering  almonds  and  the  bridal 
wreaths.  Once  in  a  while  they  came  to  a  new  stone, 
which  they  immediately  surrounded  with  eager  criticism. 
There  was  a  solemn  hush  when  they  reached  a  lot  where 
some  relatives  of  one  of  the  party  were  buried.  She  put  a 
bunch  of  flowers  on  a  grave,  then  she  stood  looking  at  it 

A   GENTLE   GHOST.  235 

with  red  eyes.  The  others  grouped  themselves  deferentially 

They  did  not  meet  any  one  in  the  cemetery  until  just  be 
fore  they  left.  When  they  had  reached  the  rear  and  oldest 
portion  of  the  yard,  and  were  thinking  of  retracing  their 
steps,  they  became  suddenly  aware  of  a  child  sitting  in  a 
lot  at  their  right.  The  lot  held  seven  old,  leaning  stones, 
dark  and  mossy,  their  inscriptions  dimly  traceable.  The 
child  sat  close  to  one,  and  she  looked  up  at  the  staring 
knot  of  women  with  a  kind  of  innocent  keenness,  like  a 
baby.  Her  face  was  small  and  fair  and  pinched.  The 
women  stood  eying  her. 

"  What's  your  name,  little  girl  ?"  asked  one.  She  had  a 
bright  flower  in  her  bonnet  and  a  smart  lift  to  her  chin, 
and  seemed  the  natural  spokeswoman  of  the  party.  Her 
name  was  Holmes.  The  child  turned  her  head  sideways 
and  murmured  something. 

"What?  We  can't  hear.  Speak  up;  don't  be  afraid! 
What's  your  name  ?"  The  woman  nodded  the  bright  flower 
over  her,  and  spoke  with  sharp  pleasantness. 

"  Nancy  Wren,"  said  the  child,  with  a  timid  catch  of  her 

"  Wren  ?" 

The  child  nodded.  She  kept  her  little  pink,  curving 
mouth  parted. 

"  It's  nobody  I  know,"  remarked  the  questioner,  reflec 
tively.  "  I  guess  she  comes  from — over  there."  She  made 
a  significant  motion  of  her  head  towards  the  right.  "  Where 
do  you  live,  Nancy  ?"  she  asked. 

The  child  also  motioned  towards  the  right. 

"  I  thought  so,"  said  the  woman.    "  How  old  are  you  ?" 




The  women  exchanged  glances.  "  Are  you  sure  you're 
tellin'  the  truth  ?" 

The  child  nodded. 

"  I  never  saw  a  girl  so  small  for  her  age  if  she  is,"  said 
one  woman  to  another. 

"  Yes,"  said  Mrs.  Holmes,  looking  at  her  critically ;  "  she 
is  dreadful  small.  She's  considerable  smaller  than  my 
Mary  was.  Is  there  any  of  your  folks  buried  in  this  lot  ?" 
said  she,  fairly  hovering  with  affability  and  determined  gra- 

The  child's  upturned  face  suddenly  kindled.  She  began 
speaking  with  a  soft  volubility  that  was  an  odd  contrast  to 
her  previous  hesitation. 

"  That's  mother,"  said  she,  pointing  to  one  of  the  stones, 
"  an'  that's  father,  an'  there's  John,  an'  Marg'ret,  an'  Mary, 
an'  Susan,  an'  the  baby,  and  here's — Jane." 

The  women  stared  at  her  in  amazement.  "  Was  it  your — " 
began  Mrs.  Holmes  ;  but  another  woman  stepped  forward, 
stoutly  impetuous. 

"  Land  !  it's  the  Blake  lot !"  said  she.  "  This  child  can't 
be  any  relation  to  'em.  You  hadn't  ought  to  talk  so, 

"  It's  so,"  said  the  child,  shyly  persistent.  She  evidently 
hardly  grasped  the  force  of  the  woman's  remark. 

They  eyed  her  with  increased  bewilderment.  "  It  can't 
be,"  said  the  woman  to  the  others.  "  Every  one  of  them 
Blakes  died  years  ago." 

"  I've  seen  Jane,"  volunteered  the  child,  with  a  candid 
smile  in  their  faces. 

Then  the  stout  woman  sank  down  on  her  knees  beside 
Jane's  stone,  and  peered  hard  at  it. 

"  She  died  forty  year  ago  this  May,"  said  she,  with  a  gasp. 

A   GENTLE   GHOST.  237 

"  I  used  to  know  her  when  I  was  a  child.  She  was  ten 
years  old  when  she  died.  You  ain't  ever  seen  her.  You 
hadn't  ought  to  tell  such  stories." 

"  I  ain't  seen  her  for  a  long  time,"  said  the  little  girl. 

"What  made  you  say  you'd  seen  her  at  all?"  said  Mrs. 
Holmes,  sharply,  thinking  this  was  capitulation. 

"  I  did  use  to  see  her  a  long  time  ago,  an'  she  used  to 
wear  a  white  dress,  an'  a  wreath  on  her  head.  She  used  to 
come  here  an'  play  with  me." 

The  women  looked  at  each  other  with  pale,  shocked 
faces ;  one  nervous ;  one  shivered.  "  She  ain't  quite  right," 
she  whispered.  "Let's  go."  The  women  began  filing 
away.  Mrs.  Holmes,  who  came  last,  stood  about  for  a  part 
ing  word  to  the  child. 

"  You  can't  have  seen  her,"  said  she,  severely,  "  an'  you 
are  a  wicked  girl  to  tell  such  stories.  You  mustn't  do  it 
again,  remember." 

Nancy  stood  with  her  hand  on  Jane's  stone,  looking  at 
her.  "  She  did,"  she  repeated,  with  mild  obstinacy. 

"  There's  somethin'  wrong  about  her,  I  guess,"  whispered 
Mrs.  Holmes,  rustling  on  after  the  others. 

"  I  see  she  looked  kind  of  queer  the  minute  I  set  eyes  on 
her,"  said  the  nervous  woman. 

When  the  four  reached  the  front  of  the  cemetery  they  sat 
down  to  rest  for  a  few  minutes.  It  was  warm,  and  they  had 
still  quite  a  walk,  nearly  the  whole  width  of  the  yard,  to  the 
other  front  corner  where  the  horse  and  wagon  were. 

They  sat  down  in  a  row  on  a  bank ;  the  stout  woman 
wiped  her  face ;  Mrs.  Holmes  straightened  her  bonnet. 
Directly  opposite  across  the  street  stood  two  houses,  so 
close  to  each  other  that  their  walls  almost  touched.  One 
was  a  large  square  building,  glossily  white,  with  green 

238  A    GENTLE   GHOST. 

blinds ;  the  other  was  low,  with  a  facing  of  whitewashed 
stone-work  reaching  to  its  lower  windows,  which  somehow 
gave  it  a  disgraced  and  menial  air ;  there  were,  moreover, 
no  blinds. 

At  the  side  of  the  low  building  stretched  a  wide  ploughed 
field,  where  several  halting  old  figures  were  moving  about 
planting.  There  was  none  of  the  brave  hope  of  the  sower 
about  them.  Even  across  the  road  one  could  see  the  fee 
ble  stiffness  of  their  attitudes,  the  half-palsied  fling  of  their 

"I  declare  I  shouldn't  think  them  old  men  over  there 
would  ever  get  that  field  planted,"  said  Mrs.  Holmes,  en 
ergetically  watchful.  In  the  front  door  of  the  square  white 
house  sat  a  girl  with  bright  hair.  The  yard  was  full  of 
green  light  from  two  tall  maple-trees,  and  the  girl's  hair 
made  a  brilliant  spot  of  color  in  the  midst  of  it. 

"That's  Flora  Dunn  over  there  on  the  door-step,  ain't 
it  ?"  said  the  stout  woman. 

"  Yes.    I  should  think  you  could  tell  her  by  her  red  hair." 

"  I  knew  it.  I  should  have  thought  Mr.  Dunn  would 
have  hated  to  have  had  their  house  so  near  the  poor-house. 
I  declare  I  should !" 

"  Oh,  he  wouldn't  mind,"  said  Mrs.  Holmes ;  "  he's  as 
easy  as  old  Tilly.  It  wouldn't  have  troubled  him  any  if 
they'd  set  it  right  in  his  front  yard.  But  I  guess  she  minded 
some.  I  heard  she  did.  John  said  there  wa'n't  any  need 
of  it.  The  town  wouldn't  have  set  it  so  near,  if  Mr.  Dunn 
had  set  his  foot  down  he  wouldn't  have  it  there.  I  s'pose 
they  wanted  to  keep  that  big  field  on  the  side  clear ;  but 
they  would  have  moved  it  along  a  little  if  he'd  made  a  fuss. 
I  tell  you  what  'tis,  I've  'bout  made  up  my  mind — I  dun 
know  as  it's  Scripture,  but  I  can't  help  it — if  folks  don't 

A   GENTLE  GHOST.  239 

make  a  fuss  they  won't  get  their  rights  in  this  world.  If 
you  jest  lay  still  an'  don't  rise  up,  you're  goin'  to  get  stepped 
on.  If  people  like  to  be,  they  can  ;  I  don't." 

"I  should  have  thought  he'd  have  hated  to  have  the 
poor-house  quite  so  close,"  murmured  the  stout  woman. 

Suddenly  Mrs.  Holmes  leaned  forward  and  poked  her 
head  among  the  other  three.  She  sat  on  the  end  of  the 
row.  **  Say,"  said  she,  in  a  mysterious  whisper,  "  I  want 
to  know  if  you've  heard  the  stories  'bout  the  Dunn  house  ?" 

"  No ;  what  ?"  chorussed  the  other  women,  eagerly.  They 
bent  over  towards  her  till  the  four  faces  were  in  a  knot. 

"  Well,"  said  Mrs.  Holmes,  cautiously,  with  a  glance  at 
the  bright-headed  girl  across  the  way — "  I  heard  it  pretty 
straight — they  say  the  house  is  haunted." 

The  stout  woman  sniffed  and  straightened  herself. 
"  Haunted!" repeated  she. 

"  They  say  that  ever  since  Jenny  died  there's  been  queer  'round  the  house  that  they  can't  account  for.  You 
see  that  front  chamber  over  there,  the  one  next  to  the  poor- 
house  ;  well,  that's  the  room,  they  say." 

The  women  all  turned  and  looked  at  the  chamber  win 
dows,  where  some  ruffled  white  curtains  were  fluttering. 

"That's  the  chamber  where  Jenny  used  to  sleep,  you 
know,"  Mrs.  Holmes  went  on  ;  "  an'  she  died  there.  Well, 
they  said  that  before  Jenny  died,  Flora  had  always  slept 
there  with  her,  but  she  felt  kind  of  bad  about  goin'  back 
there,  so  she  thought  she'd  take  another  room.  Well,  there 
was  the  awfulest  moanin'  an'  takin'  on  up  in  Jenny's  room, 
when  she  did,  that  Flora  went  back  there  to  sleep." 

"  I  shouldn't  thought  she  could,"  whispered  the  nervous 
woman,  who  was  quite  pale. 

"The  moanin'  stopped  jest  as  soon  as  she  got  in  there 


with  a  light.  You  see  Jenny  was  always  terrible  timid  an5 
afraid  to  sleep  alone,  an'  had  a  lamp  burnin'  all  night,  an' 
it  seemed  to  them  jest  as  if  it  really  was  her,  I  s'pose." 

"  I  don't  believe  one  word  of  it,"  said  the  stout  woman, 
getting  up.  "  It  makes  me  all  out  of  patience  to  hear  peo 
ple  talk  such  stuff,  jest  because  the  Dunns  happen  to  live 
opposite  a  graveyard." 

"  I  told  it  jest  as  I  heard  it,"  said  Mrs.  Holmes,  stiffly. 

"  Oh,  I  ain't  blamin'  you ;  it's  the  folks  that  start  such 
stories  that  I  ain't  got  any  patience  with.  Think  of  that 
dear,  pretty  little  sixteen-year-old  girl  hauntin'  a  house  !" 

"  Well,  I've  told  it  jest  as  I  heard  it,"  repeated  Mrs. 
Holmes,  still  in  a  tone  of  slight  umbrage.  "  I  don't  ever 
take  much  stock  in  such  things  myself." 

The  four  women  strolled  along  to  the  covered  wagon 
and  climbed  in.  "  I  declare,"  said  the  stout  woman,  con- 
ciliatingly,  "  I  dun  know  when  I've  had  such  an  outin'.  I 
feel  as  if  it  had  done  me  good.  I've  been  wan  tin'  to  come 
down  to  the  cemetery  for  a  long  time,  but  it's  most  more'n 
I  want  to  walk.  I  feel  real  obliged  to  you,  Mis'  Holmes." 

The  others  climbed  in.  Mrs.  Holmes  disclaimed  all  ob^ 
ligations  gracefully,  established  herself  on  the  front  seat, 
and  shook  the  reins  over  the  white  horse.  Then  the  party 
jogged  along  the  road  to  the  village,  past  outlying  farm 
houses  and  rich  green  meadows,  all  freckled  gold  with  dan 
delions.  Dandelions  were  in  their  height ;  the  buttercups 
had  not  yet  come. 

Flora  Dunn,  the  girl  on  the  door-step,  glanced  up  when 
they  started  down  the  street ;  then  she  turned  her  eyes  on 
her  work  ;  she  was  sewing  with  nervous  haste. 

"  Who  were  those  folks,  did  you  see,  Flora  ?"  called  her 
mother,  out  of  the  sitting-room. 



"  I  didn't  notice,"  replied  Flora,  absently. 

Just  then  the  girl  whom  the  women  had  met  came  lin- 
geringly  out  of  the  cemetery  and  crossed  the  street. 

"  There's  that  poor  little  Wren  girl,"  remarked  the  voice 
in  the  sitting-room. 

"Yes,"  assented  Flora.  After  a  while  she  got  up  and 
entered  the  house.  Her  mother  looked  anxiously  at  her 
when  she  came  into  the  room. 

"I'm  all  out  of  patience  with  you,  Flora,"  said  she. 
"You're  jest  as  white  as  a  sheet.  You'll  make  yourself 
sick.  You're  actin'  dreadful  foolish." 

Flora  sank  into  a  chair  and  sat  staring  straight  ahead 
with  a  strained,  pitiful  gaze.  "  I  can't  help  it ;  I  can't  do 
any  different,"  said  she.  "  I  shouldn't  think  you'd  scold  me, 

"  Scold  you  ;  I  ain't  scoldin'  you,  child ;  but  there  ain't 
any  sense  in  your  doin'  so.  You'll  make  yourself  sick,  an' 
you're  all  I've  got  left.  I  can't  have  anything  happen  to 
you,  Flora."  Suddenly  Mrs.  Dunn  burst  out  in  a  low  wail, 
hiding  her  face  in  her  hands. 

"  I  don't  see  as  you're  much  better  yourself,  mother," 
said  Flora,  heavily. 

"  I  don't  know  as  I  am,"  sobbed  her  mother ;  "  but  I've 
got  you  to  worry  about  besides — everything  else.  Oh, 
dear  !  oh,  dear,  dear !" 

"I  don't  see  any  need  of  your  worrying  about  me." 
Flora  did  not  cry,  but  her  face  seemed  to  darken  visibly 
with  a  gathering  melancholy  like  a  cloud.  Her  hair  was 
beautiful,  and  she  had  a  charming  delicacy  of  complexion ; 
but  she  was  not  handsome,  her  features  were  too  sharp,  her 
expression  too  intense  and  nervous.  Her  mother  looked 
like  her  as  to  the  expression;  the  features  were  widely  dif- 

242  A    GENTLE   GHOST. 

ferent.  It  was  as  if  both  had  passed  through  one  corrod 
ing  element  which  had  given  them  the  similarity  of  scars. 
Certainly  a  stranger  would  at  once  have  noticed  the  strong 
resemblance  between  Mrs.  Dunn's  large,  heavy-featured  face 
and  her  daughter's  thin,  delicately  outlined  one — a  resem 
blance  which  three  months  ago  had  not  been  perceptible. 

"I  see,  if  you  don't,"  returned  the  mother.  "  I  ain't  blind." 

"I  don't  see  what  you  are  blaming  me  for." 

"  I  ain't  blamin'  you,  but  it  seems  to  me  that  you  might 
jest  as  well  let  me  go  up  there  an'  sleep  as  you." 

Suddenly  the  girl  also  broke  out  into  a  wild  cry.  "  I 
ain't  going  to  leave  her.  Poor  little  Jenny !  poor  little 
Jenny  !  You  needn't  try  to  make  me,  mother ;  I  won't !" 

"  Flora,  don't !" 

"  I  won't !  I  won't !  I  won't !  Poor  little  Jenny  !  Oh, 
dear !  oh,  dear !" 

"What  if  it  is  so?  What  if  it  is— her?  Ain't  she  got 
me  as  well  as  you  ?  Can't  her  mother  go  to  her  ?" 

"  I  won't  leave  her.     I  won't !    I  won't !" 

Suddenly  Mrs.  Dunn's  calmness  seemed  to  come  upper 
most,  raised  in  the  scale  by  the  weighty  impetus  of  the 
other's  distress.  "  Flora,"  said  she,  with  mournful  solemnity, 
"  you  mustn't  do  so  ;  it's  wrong.  You  mustn't  wear  your 
self  all  out  over  something  that  maybe  you'll  find  out  wasn't 
so  some  time  or  other." 

"  Mother,  don't  you  think  it  is — don't  you  ?" 

"  I  don't  know  what  to  think,  Flora."  Just  then  a  door 
shut  somewhere  in  the  back  part  of  the  house.  "  There's 
father,"  said  Mrs.  Dunn,  getting  up ;  "  an'  the  fire  ain't 

Flora  rose  also,  and  went  about  helping  her  mother  to 
get  supper.  Both  suddenly  settled  into  a  rigidity  of  com- 

A    GENTLE   GHOST.  243 

posure ;  their  eyes  were  red,  but  their  lips  were  steady. 
There  was  a  resolute  vein  in  their  characters ;  they  man 
aged  themselves  with  wrenches,  and  could  be  hard  even 
with  their  grief.  They  got  tea  ready  for  Mr.  Dunn  and  his 
two  hired  men ;  then  cleared  it  away,  and  sat  down  in  the 
front  room  with  their  needlework.  Mr.  Dunn,  a  kindly, 
dull  old  man,  was  in  there  too,  over  his  newspaper.  Mrs. 
Dunn  and  Flora  sewed  intently,  never  taking  their  eyes 
from  their  work.  Out  in  the  next  room  stood  a  tall  clock, 
which  ticked  loudly ;  just  before  it  struck  the  hours  it  made 
always  a  curious  grating  noise.  When  it  announced  in  this 
way  the  striking  of  nine,  Mrs.  Dunn  and  Flora  exchanged 
glances ;  the  girl  was  pale,  and  her  eyes  looked  larger. 
She  began  folding  up  her  work.  Suddenly  a  low  moaning 
cry  sounded  through  the  house,  seemingly  from  the  room 
overhead.  "  There  it  is !"  shrieked  Flora.  She  caught  up 
a  lamp  and  ran.  Mrs.  Dunn  was  following,  when  her  hus 
band,  sitting  near  the  door,  caught  hold  of  her  dress  with  a 
bewildered  air ;  he  had  been  dozing.  "What's  the  matter?" 
said  he,  vaguely. 

"  Don't  you  hear  it  ?     Didn't  you  hear  it,  father  ?" 

The  old  man  let  go  of  her  dress  suddenly.  "  I  didn't 
hear  nothin',"  said  he. 

"  Hark !" 

But  the  cry,  in  fact,  had  ceased.  Flora  could  be  heard 
moving  about  in  the  room  overhead,  and  that  was  all.  In 
a  moment  Mrs.  Dunn  ran  up-stairs  after  her.  The  old  man 
sat  staring.  "  It's  all  dum  foolishness,"  he  muttered,  under 
his  breath.  Presently  he  fell  to  dozing  again,  and  his  va 
cantly  smiling  face  lopped  forward.  Mr.  Dunn,  slow- 
brained,  patient,  and  unimaginative,  had  had  his  evening 
naps  interrupted  after  this  manner  for  the  last  three  months, 



and  there  was  as  yet  no  cessation  of  his  bewilderment.  He 
dealt  with  the  simple,  broad  lights  of  life ;  the  shadows 
were  beyond  his  speculation.  For  his  consciousness  his 
daughter  Jenny  had  died  and  gone  to  heaven ;  he  was  not 
capable  of  listening  for  her  ghostly  moans  in  her  little 
chamber  overhead,  much  less  of  hearing  them  with  any 

When  his  wife  came  down-stairs  finally  she  looked  at 
him,  sleeping  there,  with  a  bitter  feeling.  She  felt  as  if  set 
about  by  an  icy  wind  of  loneliness.  Her  daughter,  who  was 
after  her  own  kind,  was  all  the  one  to  whom  she  could 
look  for  sympathy  and  understanding  in  this  subtle  per 
plexity  which  had  come  upon  her.  And  she  would  rather 
have  dispensed  with  that  sympathy,  and  heard  alone  those 
piteous,  uncanny  cries,  for  she  was  wild  with  anxiety  about 
Flora.  The  girl  had  never  been  very  strong.  She  looked 
at  her  distressfully  when  she  came  down  the  next  morning. 

"  Did  you  sleep  any  last  night  ?"  said  she. 

"  Some,"  answered  Flora. 

Soon  after  breakfast  they  noticed  the  little  Wren  girl 
stealing  across  the  road  to  the  cemetery  again.  "  She  goes 
over  there  all  the  time,"  remarked  Mrs.  Dunn.  "  I  b'lieve 
she  runs  away.  See  her  look  behind  her." 

"  Yes,"  said  Flora,  apathetically. 

It  was  nearly  noon  when  they  heard  a  voice  from  the 
next  house  calling,  "  Nancy  !  Nancy  !  Nancy  Wren  !"  The 
voice  was  loud  and  imperious,  but  slow  and  evenly  modu 
lated.  It  indicated  well  its  owner.  A  woman  who  could 
regulate  her  own  angry  voice  could  regulate  other  people. 
Mrs.  Dunn  and  Flora  heard  it  understandingly. 

"  That  poor  little  thing  will  catch  it  when  she  gets  home," 
said  Mrs.  Dunn. 

A   GENTLE  GHOST.  245 

"  Nancy  !  Nancy !  Nancy  Wren  !"  called  the  voice  again. 

"I  pity  the  child  if  Mrs.  Gregg  has  to  go  after  her. 
Mebbe  she's  fell  asleep  over  there.  Flora,  why  don't  you 
run  over  there  an'  get  her  ?" 

The  voice  rang  out  again.  Flora  got  her  hat  and  stole 
across  the  street  a  little  below  the  house,  so  the  calling  wom 
an  should  not  see  her.  When  she  got  into  the  cemetery 
she  called  in  her  turn,  letting  out  her  thin  sweet  voice  cau 
tiously.  Finally  she  came  directly  upon  the  child.  She 
was  in  the  Blake  lot,  her  little  slender  body,  in  its  dingy 
cotton  dress,  curled  up  on  the  ground  clos*e  to  one  of  the 
graves.  No  one  but  Nature  tended  those  old  graves  now, 
and  she  seemed  to  be  lapsing  them  gently  back  to  her  own 
lines,  at  her  own  will.  Of  the  garden  shrubs  which  had 
been  planted  about  them  not  one  was  left  but  an  old  low- 
spraying  white  rose-bush,  which  had  just  gotten  its  new 
leaves.  The  Blake  lot  was  at  the  very  rear  of  the  yard, 
where  it  verged  upon  a  light  wood,  which  was  silently  steal 
ing  its  way  over  its  own  proper  boundaries.  At  the  back 
of  the  lot  stood  a  thicket  of  little  thin  trees,  with  silvery 
twinkling  leaves.  The  ground  was  quite  blue  with  hous- 

The  child  raised  her  little  fair  head  and  stared  at  Flora, 
as  if  just  awakened  from  sleep.  She  held  her  little  pink 
mouth  open,  her  innocent  blue  eyes  had  a  surprised  look, 
as  if  she  were  suddenly  gazing  upon  a  new  scene. 

"  Where's  she  gone  ?"  asked  she,  in  her  sweet,  feeble  pipe. 

"Where's  who  gone?" 


"  I  don't  know  what  you  mean.  Come,  Nancy,  you  must 
go  home  now." 

"Didn't  you  see  her?" 

246  A   GENTLE   GHOST. 

"I   didn't   see   anybody,"  answered   Flora,  impatiently 

"She  was  right  here." 

"  What  do  you  mean  ?" 

"  Jane  was  standin'  right  here.  An'  she  had  her  white 
dress  on,  an'  her  wreath." 

Flora  shivered,  and  looked  around  her  fearfully.  The 
fancy  of  the  child  was  overlapping  her  own  nature. 
"  There  wasn't  a  soul  here.  You've  been  dreaming,  child. 
Come !" 

"  No,  I  wasn't.  I've  seen  them  blue  flowers  an'  the 
leaves  winkin'  all  the  time.  Jane  stood  right  there."  The 
child  pointed  with  her  tiny  finger  to  a  spot  at  her  side. 
"  She  hadn't  come  for  a  long  time  before,"  she  added. 
"  She's  stayed  down  there."  She  pointed  at  the  grave  near 
est  her. 

"  You  mustn't  talk  so,"  said  Flora,  with  tremulous  severity. 
"  You  must  get  right  up  and  come  home.  Mrs.  Gregg  has 
been  calling  you  and  calling  you.  She  won't  like  it." 

Nancy  turned  quite  pale  around  her  little  mouth,  and 
sprang  to  her  feet.  "  Is  Mis'  Gregg  com  in'  ?" 

"  She  will  come  if  you  don't  hurry." 

The  child  said  not  another  word.  She  flew  along  ahead 
through  the  narrow  paths,  and  was  in  the  almshouse  door 
before  Flora  crossed  the  street. 

"  She's  terrible  afraid  of  Mrs.  Gregg,"  she  told  her  mother 
when  she  got  home.  Nancy  had  disturbed  her  own  brood 
ing  a  little,  and  she  spoke  more  like  herself. 

"  Poor  little  thing !  I  pity  her,"  said  Mrs.  Dunn.  Mrs. 
Dunn  did  not  like  Mrs.  Gregg. 

Flora  rarely  told  a  story  until  she  had  ruminated  awhile 
over  it  herself  Jt  was  afternoon,  and  the  two  were  in  the 

A  GENTLE   GHOST.  247 

front  room  at  their  sewing,  before  she  told  her  mother  about 

"  Of  course  she  must  have  been  dreaming,"  Flora  said. 

"  She  must  have  been,"  rejoined  her  mother. 

But  the  two  looked  at  each  other,  and  their  eyes  said 
more  than  their  tongues.  Here  was  a  new  marvel,  new 
evidence  of  a  kind  which  they  had  heretofore  scented  at, 
these  two  rigidly  walking  New  England  souls  ;  yet  walking, 
after  all,  upon  narrow  paths  through  dark  meadows  of  mys 
ticism.  If  they  never  lost  their  footing,  the  steaming  damp 
of  the  meadows  might  come  in  their  faces. 

This  fancy,  delusion,  superstition,  whichever  one  might 
name  it,  of  theirs  had  lasted  now  three  months — ever  since 
young  Jenny  Dunn  had  died.  There  was  apparently  no 
reason  why  it  should  not  last  much  longer,  if  delusion  it 
were ;  the  temperaments  of  these  two  women,  naturally 
nervous  and  imaginative,  overwrought  now  by  long  care  and 
sorrow,  would  perpetuate  it. 

If  it  were  not  delusion,  pray  what  exorcism,  what  spell 
of  book  and  bell,  could  lay  the  ghost  of  a  little  timid  child 
who  was  afraid  alone  in  the  dark? 

The  days  went  on,  and  Flora  still  hurried  up  to  her 
chamber  at  the  stroke  of  nine.  If  she  were  a  moment  late, 
sometimes  if  she  were  not,  that  pitiful  low  wail  sounded 
through  the  house. 

The  strange  story  spread  gradually  through  the  village. 
Mrs.  Dunn  and  Flora  were  silent  about  it,  but  Gossip  is  her 
self  of  a  ghostly  nature,  and  minds  not  keys  nor  bars. 

There  was  quite  an  excitement  over  it.  People  affected 
with  morbid  curiosity  and  sympathy  came  to  the  house. 
One  afternoon  the  minister  came  and  offered  a  prayer.  Mrs. 
Dunn  and  Flora  received  them  all  with  a  certain  reticence  ; 

248  A   GENTLE   GHOST. 

they  did  not  concur  in  their  wishes  to  remain  and  heat 
the  mysterious  noises  for  themselves.  People  called  them 
"  dreadful  close."  They  got  more  satisfaction  out  of  Mr. 
Dunn,  who  was  perfectly  ready  to  impart  all  the  information 
in  his  power  and  his  own  theories  in  the  matter. 

"  I  never  heard  a  thing  but  once,"  said  he,  "  an'  then  it 
sounded  more  like  a  cat  to  me  than  anything.  I  guess 
mother  and  Flora  air  kinder  nervous." 

The  spring  was  waxing  late  when  Flora  went  up-stairs 
one  night  with  the  oil  low  in  her  lamp.  She  had  neglected 
rilling  it  that  day.  She  did  not  notice  it  until  she  was  un 
dressed  ;  then  she  thought  to  herself  that  she  must  blow  it 
out.  She  always  kept  a  lamp  burning  all  night,  as  she  had 
in  timid  little  Jenny's  day.  Flora  herself  was  timid  now. 

So  she  blew  the  light  out.  She  had  barely  laid  her  head 
upon  the  pillow  when  the  low  moaning  wail  sounded  through 
the  room.  Flora  sat  up  in  bed  and  listened,  her  hands 
clinched.  The  moan  gathered  strength  and  volume  ;  little 
broken  words  and  sentences,  the  piteous  ejaculations  of  ter 
ror  and  distress,  began  to  shape  themselves  out  of  it. 

Flora  sprang  out  of  bed,  and  stumbled  towards  her  west 
window — the  one  on  the  almshouse  side.  She  leaned  her 
head  out,  listening  a  moment.  Then  she  called  her  mother 
with  wild  vehemence.  But  her  mother  was  already  at  the 
door  with  a  lamp.  When  she  entered,  the  moans  ceased. 

"  Mother,"  shrieked  Flora,  "  it  ain't  Jenny.  It's  some 
body  over  there — at  the  poor-house.  Put  the  lamp  out  in 
the  entry,  and  come  back  here  and  listen." 

Mrs.  Dunn  set  out  the  lamp  and  came  back,  closing  the 
door.  It  was  a  few  minutes  first,  but  presently  the  cries 

"I'm   goin'  right  over  there,"  said   Mrs.  Dunn.     "I'm 


goin'  to  dress  myself  an'  go  over  there.  I'm  goin'  to  have 
this  affair  sifted  now." 

"  I'm  going  too,"  said  Flora. 

It  was  only  half-past  nine  when  the  two  stole  into  the 
almshouse  yard.  The  light  was  not  out  in  the  room  on  the 
ground-floor,  which  the  overseer's  family  used  for  a  sitting- 
room.  When  they  entered,  the  overseer  was  there  asleep 
in  his  chair,  his  wife  sewing  at  the  table,  and  an  old  woman 
in  a  pink  cotton  dress,  apparently  doing  nothing.  They 
all  started,  and  stared  at  the  intruders. 

"  Good-evenin',"  said  Mrs.  Dunn,  trying  to  speak  com 
posedly.  "  We  thought  we'd  come  in ;  we  got  kind  of 
started.  Oh,  there  'tis  now  !  What  is  it,  Mis'  Gregg  ?" 

In  fact,  at  that  moment,  the  wail,  louder  and  more  dis 
tinct,  was  heard. 

"Why,  it's  Nancy,"  replied  Mrs.  Gregg,  with  dignified 
surprise.  She  was  a  large  woman,  with  a  masterly  placid^ 
ity  about  her.  "  I  heard  her  a  few  minutes  ago,"  she  went 
on ;  "  an'  I  was  goin'  up  there  to  see  to  her  if  she  hadn't 

Mr.  Gregg,  a  heavy,  saturnine  old  man,  with  a  broad 
bristling  face,  sat  staring  stupidly.  The  old  woman  in  pink 
calico  surveyed  them  all  with  an  impersonal  grin. 

"Nancy!"  repeated  Mrs.  Dunn,  looking  at  Mrs.  Gregg. 
She  had  not  fancied  this  woman  very  much,  and  the  two 
had  not  fraternized,  although  they  were  such  near  neigh 
bors.  Indeed,  Mrs.  Gregg  was  not  of  a  sociable  nature, 
and  associated  very  little  with  anything  but  her  own  duties. 

"Yes;  Nancy  Wren,"  she  said,  with  gathering  amaze 
ment.  "  She  cries  out  this  way  'most  every  night.  She's 
ten  years  old,  but  she's  as  afraid  of  the  dark  as  a  baby.  She's 
a  queer  child.  I  guess  mebbe  she's  nervous.  I  don't  know 



but  she's  got  notions  into  her  head,  stayin'  over  in  the 
graveyard  so  much.  She  runs  away  over  there  every  chance 
she  can  get,  an'  she  goes  over  a  queer  rigmarole  about 
playin'  with  Jane,  and  her  bein'  dressed  in  white  an'  a 
wreath.  I  found  out  she  meant  Jane  Blake,  that's  buried 
in  the  Blake  lot.  I  knew  there  wa'n't  any  children  round 
here,  an'  I  thought  I'd  look  into  it.  You  know  it  says 
'  Our  Father,'  an'  '  Our  Mother/  on  the  old  folks'  stones. 
An'  there  she  was,  callin'  them  father  an'  mother.  You'd 
thought  they  was  right  there.  I've  got  'most  out  o'  patience 
with  the  child.  I  don't  know  nothin'  about  such  kind  of 
folks."  The  wail  continued.  "I'll  go  right  up  there," 
said  Mrs.  Gregg,  determinately,  taking  a  lamp. 

Mrs.  Dunn  and  Flora  followed.  When  they  entered  the 
chamber  to  which  she  led  them  they  saw  little  Nancy  sit 
ting  up  in  bed,  her  face  pale  and  convulsed,  her  blue  eyes 
streaming  with  tears,  her  little  pink  mouth  quivering. 

"Nancy — "  began  Mrs.  Gregg,  in  a  weighty  tone.  But 
Mrs.  Dunn  sprang  forward  and  threw  her  arms  around  the 

"  You  got  frightened,  didn't  you  ?"  whispered  she ;  and 
Nancy  clung  to  her  as  if  for  life. 

A  great  wave  of  joyful  tenderness  rolled  up  in  the  heart 
of  the  bereaved  woman.  It  was  not,  after  all,  the  lonely 
and  fearfully  wandering  little  spirit  of  her  dear  Jenny ;  she 
was  peaceful  and  blessed,  beyond  all  her  girlish  tumults 
and  terrors ;  but  it  was  this  little  living  girl.  She  saw  it  all 
plainly  now.  Afterwards  it  seemed  to  her  that  any  one  but 
a  woman  with  her  nerves  strained,  and  her  imagination 
unhealthily  keen  through  watching  and  sorrow,  would  have 
seen  it  before. 

She  held  Nancy  tight,  and  soothed  her.     She  felt  almost 

A    GENTLE  GHOST.  251 

as  if  she  held  her  own  Jenny.  "  I  guess  I'll  take  her  home 
with  me,  if  you  don't  care,"  she  said  to  Mrs,  Gregg. 

"Why,  I  don't  know  as  I've  got  any  objections,  if 
you  want  to,"  answered  Mrs.  Gregg,  with  cold  stateliness. 
"  Nancy  Wren  has  had  everything  done  for  her  that  I  was 
able  to  do,"  she  added,  when  Mrs.  Dunn  had  wrapped  up 
the  child,  and  they  were  all  on  the  stairs.  "  I  ain't  coaxed 
an'  cuddled  her,  because  it  ain't  my  way.  I  never  did  with 
my  own  children." 

"  Oh,  I  know  you've  done  all  you  could,"  said  Mrs.  Dunn, 
with  abstracted  apology.  "  I  jest  thought  I'd  like  to  take 
her  home  to-night.  Don't  you  think  I'm  blamin'  you,  Mis' 
Gregg."  She  bent  down  and  kissed  the  little  tearful  face 
on  her  shoulder :  she  was  carrying  Nancy  like  a  baby. 
Flora  had  hold  of  one  of  her  little  dangling  hands. 

"  You  shall  go  right  up  -  stairs  an'  sleep  with  Flora," 
Mrs.  Dunn  whispered  in  the  child's  ear,  when  they  were  go 
ing  across  the  yard  \  "  an'  you  shall  have  the  lamp  burnin' 
all  night,  an'  I'll  give  you  a  piece  of  cake  before  you  go." 

It  was  the  custom  of  the  Dunns  to  visit  the  cemetery  and 
carry  flowers  to  Jenny's  grave  every  Sunday  afternoon. 
Next  Sunday  little  Nancy  went  with  them.  She  followed 
happily  along,  and  did  not  seem  to  think  of  the  Blake  lot. 
That  pitiful  fancy,  if  fancy  it  were,  which  had  peopled  her 
empty  childish  world  with  ghostly  kindred,  which  had  led 
into  it  an  angel  playmate  in  white  robe  and  crown,  might 
lie  at  rest  now.  There  was  no  more  need  for  it.  She  had 
found  her  place  in  a  nest  of  living  hearts,  and  she  was  get 
ting  her  natural  food  of  human  love. 

They  had  dressed  Nancy  in  one  of  the  little  white  frocks 
which  Jenny  had  worn  in  her  childhood,  and  her  hat  was 

252  A   GENTLE   GHOST. 

trimmed  with  some  ribbon  and  rose-buds  which  had  adorned 
one  of  the  dead  young  girl's  years  before. 

It  was  a  beautiful  Sunday.  After  they  left  the  cemetery 
they  strolled  a  little  way  down  the  road.  The  road  lay  be 
tween  deep  green  meadows  and  cottage  yards.  It  was  not 
quite  time  for  the  roses,  and  the  lilacs  were  turning  gray. 
The  buttercups  in  the  meadows  had  blossomed  out,  but  the 
dandelions  had  lost  their  yellow  crowns,  and  their  filmy 
skulls  appeared.  They  stood  like  ghosts  among  crowds  of 
golden  buttercups  ;  but  none  of  the  family  thought  of  that ; 
their  ghosts  were  laid  in  peace. 


"WONDER  what's  goin'  on  in  the  church?" 

Oilman  Marlow  stopped  and  stared  slowly  over  at  the 
church.  It  was  a  little  white  building  with  five  pointed 
windows  on  each  side.  The  windows  were  all  streaming 
with  light  now,  and  the  bright  light  showed  from  the  door 
too,  for  it  was  open,  and  people  were  going  in. 

Opposite  the  church,  where  Marlow  stood,  the  road  was 
lined  with  thickly  set  hemlock  and  pine  trees.  Behind 
them  was  the  graveyard :  one  peering  between  the  branches 
could  see  the  white  stones.  The  gap  for  the  entrance  was 
a  little  beyond.  There  had  been  a  heavy  snowfall  the  day 
before,  and  all  the  trees  were  loaded  with  snow  now ;  the 
boughs  bent  down  heavily ;  the  lowest  ones  touched  the 

Marlow  stood  among  the  white  branches  awhile,  and 
looked  over  at  the  church  with  a  sort  of  dull  curiosity ; 
then  he  kept  on  up  the  street.  He  met  many  little  hurry 
ing  groups,  and  he  turned  out  for  them  readily,  plunging 
into  the  deep  snow  at  the  side  of  the  cleared  path. 

Some  of  the  people  turned  and  stared  after  him.  "Who 
was  that  ?"  he  heard  some  one  say.  "  I  don't  know,"  said 

"  I  guess  you  don't,"  muttered  Marlow,  with  a  faint  chuckle. 


When  he  came  in  front  of  a  lighted  window  anywhere,  he 
showed  up  large  and  burly,  an  old  rough  great-coat  shrugged 
tightly  around  him,  an  old  fur  cap  pulled  down  to  his  ears. 
He  limped  badly. 

About  a  quarter  of  a  mile  from  the  church  there  was  a 
large  white  farm-house.  The  great  square  front  yard  was 
full  of  smooth  snow.  Some  old  rose-bushes  under  the  house 
walls  pricked  softly  through  it,  but  there  was  not  a  foot-track 
anywhere.  All  the  windows  in  the  house  were  dark.  Mar- 
low  stood  looking  up  at  the  house.  A  great  clod  of  damp 
snow  struck  on  his  shoulders.  It  had  fallen  from  a  maple- 
tree  which  reached  out  over  his  head.  He  shook  it  off. 

"  Guess  I'll  go  round  to  the  back  door  an'  see  if  I  can 
raise  anybody,"  said  he,  out  loud. 

"  There  ain't  anybody  livin'  in  that  house  now,"  said  a 

Marlow  looked  around.  A  small  woman  stood  beside 
him  ;  her  little  upturned  face  stood  out  of  the  dark  with  its 
soft  paleness,  but  he  could  not  distinguish  the  features. 

"Is  that  so?"  said  he. 

"Yes;  there  ain't  anybody  been  livin'  there  for  some 
time."  The  woman  caught  her  breath  as  she  talked. 

"  Then  the  old  man's  dead." 

"  He  died  more'n  three  years  ago.  The  place  has  been 
shut  up  ever  since." 

"  I  wonder  if  I  could  get  in  there  ?  I  s'pose  somebody's 
got  the  key.  You  don't  happen  to  know  who,  do  you  ?  I'm 
Marlow's  son.  I  don't  know  who  you  are,  but  I  don't  s'pose 
it's  likely  you're  anybody  that  knows  me." 

"  Oilman,  is  that  you  ?" 

"  I  s'pose  it  is." 

"  I  knew  you  the  minute  you  spoke." 


"  You  did  ?  Well,  I'm  glad  of  it.  I  didn't  count  on  any 
body  in  the  whole  town  rememberin'  the  sound  of  my  voice. 
But  I'll  own  I  can't  say  as  much  for  myself." 

"  Don't  you  know —    I  live  in  the  next  house." 

The  man  hesitated.  "  It  ain't  Lucy — well  I  don't  know 
as  it  is  Lucy  Glynn,  now."  He  ended  with  a  little  uncertain 

"Yes,  it  is." 

Marlow  saw,  to  his  great  amazement,  that  the  woman  was 
crying.  She  was  shaken  all  over  with  her  sobs.  She 
leaned  up  against  the  snowy  fence.  He  looked  at  the 
house,  then  at  her.  He  did  not  know  what  to  do.  He  had 
no  idea  what  she  was  crying  about.  "  I'm  real  glad  to  see 
you,  Lucy,"  said  he,  finally,  in  a  nervous,  apologetic  tone. 
She  made  no  reply.  "  Is  your  father  livin'  ?" 

"  Yes,  father's  livin'." 

Marlow  shuffled  his  feet  in  the  snow.  He  looked  at 
Lucy,  then  at  the  house.  "  Anything  I  can  do  for  you  ?" 
he  said  at  last,  in  an  embarrassed,  solemn  way.  His  face 
felt  hot. 

"No."  Suddenly  the  woman  straightened  herself.  "I've 
got  the  key  to  the  house,"  said  she,  in  a  tremulous  voice, 
which  caught  at  every  word  to  recover  itself. 

"  Oh,  you  have  !" 

"  Yes  ;  it's  been  left  at  our  house  ever  since  he  died.  If 
you'll  go  back  with  me — " 

"  All  right." 

The  woman  went  on  ahead,  her  dark  skirts  dabbled  in 
the  snow.  Marlow  followed,  his  eyes  on  her  little  narrow 
shoulders,  which  had  somehow  a  meek  air  about  them. 
She  gathered  her  gray  shawl  up  primly  on  her  two  arms, 
and  kept  it  tightly  pulled  around  her.  She  walked  with  a 


little  nervous  scud.  Marlow  tramped  heavily  after  her. 
They  had  but  a  little  way  to  go. 

"  What's  goin'  on  in  the  church  to-night  ?"  said  he.  "  I 
saw  it  was  all  lighted  up  when  I  came  by." 

"They're  havin'  a  Christmas  tree  there." 

"  I  declare,  it  is  the  night  before  Christmas,  ain't  it  ?" 

"  Didn't  you  know  it  ?" 

"  Well,  I  guess  I'd  kind  of  lost  my  reckonin'.  I  haven't 
thought  much  about  Christmas  lately.  Folks  make  a  great 
deal  more  account  of  it  than  they  used  to,  anyhow." 

"  Yes,  they  do." 

The  two  front  windows  of  the  small  house  in  the  next  lot 
were  golden  with  light.  Some  green  plants  showed  in  them ; 
the  white  curtains  were  drawn  only  over  the  upper  sashes. 

Lucy  turned  into  the  gate.  As  she  did  so  she  glanced 
around  at  Marlow,  and  noticed  for  the  first  time  how  he 
limped.  "  Why,  you're  lame,"  she  said. 

"  Yes.  I  hurt  my  knee  awhile  ago,  and  then  the  rheu 
matism  got  into  it.  I've  been  in  the  hospital  a  spell." 

The  woman  gave  a  little  cry.    "  The  hospital !" 


"  Let  me  help  you  up  the  steps." 


"  I'm  real  strong." 

"  Oh,  I  can  get  up  the  steps  well  enough.  It  ain't  very 
bad  now ;  I've  got  kind  of  used  to  it.  I'd  feel  lonesome 
without  it,  you  know.  Well,  it's  better  to  have  an  ache 
stick  to  you  than  nothin',  I  s'pose."  Marlow  chuckled 

Lucy  opened  the  outer  door,  then  an  inner  one.  The 
entry  was  so  small  that  she  had  to  step  out  of  it  into  the 
room  before  her  guest  could  enter  at  all.  There  came  a 


rush  of  warm  air,  sweet  with  heliotrope  and  oleander,  and 
pungent  with  geraniums. 

Marlow  snuffed  it  in,  and  blinked  in  the  light.  "  I'll  wait 
here,"  said  he.  "  You'd  better  shut  your  door  or  you'll  cold 
your  house  all  off." 

"  Why,  you're  comin'  in  ?" 

"  No,  thank  ye ;  it  wouldn't  pay.  I'll  just  stand  here 
till  you  get  the  key." 

"  Ain't  you  comin'  in,  just  to  get  warm  a  minute  ?" 

"  No,  thank  ye  ;  I  guess  I  won't.  I'll  come  some  other 
time.  I'll  take  the  key  now  and  go — well,  I  don't  know  as 
I'll  say  home — over  there."  He  waved  his  hand  towards 
the  dark  mass  of  buildings  at  the  left.  Lucy  stood  looking 
at  him  a  minute. 

"Why  don't  you  shet  the  door? — you're  coldin'  the  house 
all  off,"  called  a  voice  out  of  the  light  and  warmth.  "  Hey !" 
called  the  voice  again,  "  why  don't  you  shet  the  door  ?  Is 
that  you  ?" 

Then  Lucy  swung  to  the  inner  door  and  stepped  up  to 
Marlow.  "You  must  come  in.  I  don't  see  what  you're 
thinkin'  of.  Here's  that  house  all  cold  and  dark.  It  ain't 
fit  to  go  into ;  it's  been  shut  up.  You'll  catch  your  death 
of  cold  j  and  you're  lame ;  and  there  ain't — anybody — there." 
Her  voice  sounded  weakly  sharp ;  at  the  end  it  broke  into  a 
sob  again. 

"  Great  heavens!  she  can't  want  me  to  come  in  as  bad  as 
that,"  he  said  to  himself.  "I'll  get  along  well  enough,"  he 
said,  ardently,  after  a  minute  ;  "  I'm  used  to  'most  every 
thing.  'Twouldn't  be  worth  while  for  me  to  come  in." 

"  I  was  goin'  to  get  you  some  supper." 

"  Oh,  thank  ye  ;  but  it  don't  make  any  difference  to  me 
whether  I  have  any  supper  or  not." 


"  It  ain't  any  trouble,"  Lucy  said,  faintly. 

Marlow  stood  looking  irresolutely  at  her.  He  could  not 
believe  that  she  was  in  earnest  about  wanting  him  to  enter. 
"  I'll  track  the  snow  all  over  your  clean  house,"  he  said, 

That  signified  that  he  was  coming  in.  "  That  ain't  any 
matter,"  said  Lucy,  and  again  threw  open  the  sitting-room 

Marlow  stamped  heavily  on  the  door-step,  and  shook  his 
shoulders  ;  then  he  went  in  clumsily.  The  room  was  small. 
Out  of  his  very  humility  and  meekness  he  saw  himself 
larger  than  he  was  ;  there  was  a  swift  multiplication,  in  his 
own  estimation,  of  his  rough  clothes  and  his  rough  figure. 
He  held  his  cap  in  his  hand,  and  did  not  dare  to  stir  for  a 
moment.  In  the  corner  near  him  was  a  great  pot  with  an 
oleander-tree,  its  spraying  top  all  pink  with  blossoms. 
There  was  a  little  yellow  stand  with  pots  of  geranium  and 
heliotrope  on  it.  Take  a  step  forward,  and  there  was  an 
old  man  warming  his  feet  at  an  air-tight  stove. 

"  Here's  somebody  come  to  see  us,  father,"  said  Lucy. 

The  old  man  shrank  back.  He  ignored  Marlow,  who 
held  out  his  hand,  and  mumbled  something.  "  I  dun  know 
who  'tis,"  he  said,  turning  to  his  daughter. 

"Why,  it's  Mr.  Marlow,  father — Oilman  Marlow.  He 
used  to  live  next  door — don't  you  know  ?" 

"  Tain't,  nuther ;  he's  dead."  The  old  man  set  his  lips 
together  like  a  child. 

" Yes,  father,  old  Mr.  Mario w's  dead;  he  died  three 
years^ago.  But  this  ain't  him  ;  this  is  his  son  Gilman. 
Don't  you  remember  him  ?" 

"The  one  that  sort  of  slumped  through?" 

Lucy  started  pitifully.    Marlow  colored  ;  then  he  grinned. 


"Yes,  I  reckon  that  just  fits  my  case,"  said  he,  with  a  sort 
of  embarrassed  and  shamefaced  mirthfulness.  "  I'm  the 
one.  I've  slumped  through  ever  since  I  come  into  the  world." 

"  Father,  can't  you  shake  hands  with  Oilman  ?" 

The  old  man  reached  out  his  hand.  His  thin  mouth 
curved  up  at  the  corners,  the  wrinkles  around  his  eyes 
deepened.  He  would  have  looked  quizzical  had  he  not 
looked  so  feeble.  Marlow  grasped  the  old  hand ;  then  he 
gave  Lucy  his  cap  and  coat,  and  seated  himself  in  the 
chair  which  she  had  proffered  him.  It  was  a  calico-covered 
rocker.  He  sat  in  it  stiffly.  It  seemed  to  him  that  it 
would  be  indecorous  to  relax  himself  into  comfort. 

Something  brushed  his  head.  He  looked  up,  and  it  was 
a  soft  spray  of  the  oleander  blossoms.  He  moved  his  chair 
quickly.  Lucy  had  gone  out ;  he  could  hear  her  stepping 
about  in  the  next  room.  He  wondered  vaguely  what  she 
was  doing.  He  had  no  longer  any  feeling  of  resistance  to 
her  plans.  He  was  nearly  exhausted.  He  was  just  out  of 
the  hospital,  and  he  had  walked  five  miles  through  the  snow 
that  day.  His  knee  began  to  pain  him  now.  His  large, 
rough-complexioned  face  was  pale. 

The  old  man  eyed  him  intently.  He  had  something 
which  looked  like  a  brown  cashmere  dress  across  his  knees, 
and  another  part  of  it  lay  on  a  chair  beside  him.  "  What's 
she  a-doin'  on  ?"  he  asked  Marlow. 

"  I  don't  know." 

"  Lucy !"  called  her  father ;  "  Lucy !" 

"  What  is  it,  father  ?"  called  Lucy  back  from  the  other 

"What  air  you  a-doin'  of?" 

"Makin'  a  little  tea  for  Mr.  Marlow." 

"What  air  you  a-makin'  tea  for  him  for?"     There  was 


no  reply.  "  What  is  she  a-makin'  tea  for  you  for  ?"  asked 
the  old  man  of  Marlow. 

"I  don't  know." 

"  She  never  makes  any  for  me  this  time  o'  night. 
'Twouldn't  do  me  no  harm,  nuther,  a  cup  on't  warm  afore  I 
went  to  bed."  Suddenly  the  old  man  caught  up  the  brown 
cashmere  on  his  lap  and  threw  it  over  to  Marlow.  "  There," 
said  he,  "  you  kin  pick  the  bastin's  out  o'  that  while  you're 
settin'.  I've  got  to  pick  'em  out  of  the  waist  on't." 

Marlow  looked  at  the  brown  cashmere  in  bewilderment. 

"  Pick  the  bastin's  out — them  long  white  stitches  in  the 
seams.  Lucy  dress-makes,  an'  I  hev  to  pick  out  all  the 
bastin's.  It's  ruther  more'n  I  want  to  do  some  days.  You 
might  jest  as  well  take  holt  while  you  air  a-settinV 

Marlow  began  awkwardly  pulling  at  the  white  thread. 

Presently  Lucy  opened  the  door.  "  I've  got  some  tea 
made,"  said  she,  with  gentle  stiffness.  There  was  a  delicate 
meagreness  about  the  little  figure  in  the  best  black  silk 
gown.  She  wore  a  full  white  ruche  around  her  slender 
neck  ;  she  held  her  thin  chin  erect  above  it,  but  her  whole 
head  seemed  to  droop  a  little.  There  were  bright  spots  on 
her  cheeks,  which  were  thin,  but  still  softly  curved. 

Marlow  eyed  her  with  admiration,  which  was  the  only 
distinct  sentiment  which  shaped  itself  out  of  his  bewilder 
ment  and  fatigue.  Lucy  had  been  very  pretty,  and  was 
now  ;  still  she  was  not  as  pretty  nor  as  young  as  she 
looked  to  him.  He  viewed  her  in  the  same  glass  in  which 
he  saw  himself  reflected.  Her  face  beside  his  own,  which 
thrilled  him  with  humility,  got  a  wonderful  beauty  of  con 
trast.  He  eyed  his  poor  clothes,  then  her  nice  black  silk ; 
the  black  gloss  of  it  on  her  shoulders,  the  cunning  loopings, 


a  flutter  of  black  lace  on  the  over-skirt,  filled  him  with  re 
spect  and  awe. 

"  Wa'n't  you  goin'  out  somewhere  ?"  he  asked,  with  feeble 
politeness.  He  got  up  clumsily,  and  let  the  brown  cashmere 
slide  to  the  floor. 

"  No ;  I  was  just  goin'  to  look  in  at  the  Christmas  tree 
a  minute.  I  wa'n't  goin'  to  stay.  Father,  what  have  you 
done  ?" 

She  picked  up  the  dress,  and  looked  at  him  and  Marlow. 

"  I  ain't  done  nothin'  but  set  him  pickin'  out  a  few 
bastin's,"  said  the  old  man,  defiantly.  "  He  might  jest  as 
well  be  workin'  as  me." 

"  Oh,  father,  you  hadn't  ought  to  !" 

"  I  didn't  mind,"  said  Marlow,  stupidly. 

"Father's  real  feeble  and  childish,"  Lucy  whispered, 
when  she  and  her  guest  were  in  the  other  room.  "  I  set 
him  pickin'  out  bastin's  to  keep  him  contented.  He  frets 
about  doin'  it,  but  he  likes  it.  He's  just  as  uneasy  as  he 
can  be  if  he  gets  out  of  work." 

"  It's  a  great  deal  better  for  him,  I  should  think,"  Marlow 

The  fragrance  of  the  tea  stole  into  his  nostrils.  The 
nicely  piled  white  bread  gave  out  a  sweet  odor  of  its  own. 

Lucy  had  set  out  her  mother's  china  cups  and  saucers — 
white,  with  a  little  green  vine  on  the  rims.  She  offered  him 
her  best  damson  sauce  and  her  fruit  cake.  Marlow  ate 
without  tasting.  He  was  trying  to  remember  something. 
He  remembered  it  better  and  better ;  it  was  quite  clear  in 
his  mind  by  the  time  he  was  left  to  himself  in  the  little 
sleeping-room  up-stairs.  It  was  Lucy's,  which  she  had 
given  up  to  him.  She  would  sleep  on  the  sitting-room 
lounge.  A  little  picture  hung  over  the  bed.  It  caught  his 


attention  ;  it  had  a  familiar  look  :  then  he  recollected.  He 
had  given  it  to  Lucy  Glynn  twenty  years  ago  ;  they  had 
thought  they  were  in  love  with  each  other,  though  little  had 
been  said  about  it.  It  was  just  before  he  went  away. 
Gradually  he  recalled  some  words,  a  kiss  or  two.  He  had 
almost  forgotten.  Now  the  memory  came,  it  was  sweet. 
He  felt  as  if  he  were  thrusting  back  his  head,  old  and 
weary  and  grizzled,  out  of  this  wintry  misery  into  some 
sweet  old  spring  which  he  had  passed.  He  looked  back  at 
it  with  pitiful  regret. 

"Why  didn't  I  marry  Lucy,"  he  said  to  himself,  "and 
stay  at  home,  and  settle  down,  and  behave  myself?" 

The  next  day  was  Christmas.  It  snowed  again  heavily. 
Marlow  got  his  key  and  tramped  over  to  his  old  home 
through  the  snow-drifts.  So  far  as  he  knew,  the  place  was 
all  his.  It  was  quite  a  little  fortune  to  him,  this  substan 
tial  house,  with  its  environment  of  sixty  acres  of  meadow 
and  woodland.  He  could  not  believe  in  the  reality  of  it ;  a 
whimsical  doubt  as  to  the  rightfulness  of  his  claim  pos 
sessed  him.  He  felt  as  if  he  were  extending  his  hand  for 
a  gift  which  was  begrudged.  It  was  natural  enough  that 
he  should  feel  so ;  he  could  not  remember  his  father  as 
ever  giving  him  anything  willingly.  If  Gilman  Marlow  had 
led  a  hard  life,  there  had  been  no  parental  love  and  soft 
ness  to  point  at  as  the  cause  of  it.  Marlow  had  a  few 
cents  in  his  pocket.  These  seemed  to  him  a  much  more 
tangible  property  than  this  solid  estate  which  he  was  ex 
amining.  He  walked  through  the  bitter  cold  rooms  with  a 
feeling  as  if  he  intruded.  His  father,  dead,  became  to  him 
a  more  certain  possessor  than  if  living.  He  saw  his  father's 
coat  and  hat  hanging  on  a  peg  in  the  kitchen,  and  he  turn 
ed  away  like  a  culprit. 


After  a  little  he  went  out  in  the  storm  again.  He  thought 
he  might  as  well  see  the  man  who  Lucy  had  told  him  had 
charge  of  the  estate.  His  name  was  Nelson  ;  he  was  one 
of  the  selectmen.  Marlow  had  to  pass  the  church  and 
the  graveyard  to  reach  his  house.  The  evergreen  branches 
hung  lower  than  ever ;  the  new  snow-flakes  softly  bent  down 
the  long  slim  sprays  of  the  graveyard  bushes  until  they  lay 
on  the  ground ;  the  mildewed  fronts  of  the  slanting  old 
gravestones  were  hung  with  irregular,  shifting  snow-garlands. 

Marlow  stopped  and  looked  in  the  solemn  white  en 
closure.  The  snow  settled  softly  upon  him.  There  was 
no  wind  ;  everything  was  very  still.  Somewhere  over  there 
was  his  father's  grave.  He  brushed  away  some  tears  with 
the  back  of  his  hand.  "  Good  Lord,"  he  muttered,  "  I  ain't 
got  much,  an'  that's  a  fact."  Then  he  went  on.  It  was  a 
quarter  of  a  mile  farther  to  the  selectman's  house. 

It  was  noon  when  he  returned  along  the  same  road. 
The  snow  had  gathered  a  good  deal,  but  he  seemed  to 
walk  with  greater  ease — at  any  rate,  he  walked  faster. 

He  passed  his  father's  house,  and  went  straight  to  the 
Glynns'.  He  knocked,  and  the  old  man  shuffled  to  the 
door.  "  Lucy's  gone,"  he  said,  querulously.  "  She's  been 
gone  all  the  forenoon,  an'  I  dun  know  whar  she  is.  It's 
dinner-time  now,  an'  thar  ain't  a  pertater  on,  nor  nothin', 
an'  I've  been  a-pickin'  out  bastin's  ever  since  daylight.  I 
wish  you'd  find  out  whar  she's  gone,  an'  send  her  home." 

"Well,  I'll  see,"  said  Marlow.  Then  he  plodded  around 
to  the  side  door  of  his  own  house.  It  opened  directly  into 
the  kitchen.  There  was  a  good  fire  in  the  stove,  and  Lucy 
stood  beside  it  cooking  some  eggs.  A  pot  with  potatoes 
was  steaming  and  bubbling  over.  The  table  was  set  out, 
with  a  white  cloth  on  it. 


"Why,  you  here?"  said  Marlow. 

Lucy  bent  over  her  frying  eggs.  "  I  thought  I'd  get  you 
a  little  somethin'  to  eat,  seem'  you  wa'n't  willin'  to  come 
to  our  house  again.  There's  a  couple  of  pies  in  the  oven, 

"  Lucy,"  said  Marlow,  suddenly,  "  what  made  you  pay  up 
the  interest  on  that  mortgage  ?" 

Lucy  suddenly  turned  white.  "  What  do  you  mean  ?"  she 

"  Nelson  told  me  all  about  it.   What  made  you  do  it  ?" 

"  Mr.  Nelson  said  he  wouldn't  tell." 

"He  didn't  mean  to.  I  guessed  it  from  somethin'  he 
said,  an'  then  I  made  him  tell  me.  I  think  I  ought  to 
know  it.  Lucy,  he  said  you'd  put  a  mortgage  on  your 
house  to  pay  up  that  back  interest-money,  so  it  shouldn't 
be  foreclosed.  Did  you  ?" 

"  It  ain't  worth  talkin'  about." 

"An'  then  you've  paid  the  interest  an'  taxes  ever*since, 
so  I  shouldn't  lose  the  place.  I  don't  see  how  you  did  it." 

"  I've  had  all  the  dress-makin'  I  could  do."  Lucy  lifted 
the  frying-pan  off  the  stove.  Her  hands  trembled. 

"  Stop  workin'  a  minute,  an'  let's  talk,"  said  Marlow. 

Lucy  set  the  pan  on  the  hearth,  and  stood  waiting.  She 
cast  her  eyes  down  ;  her  face  twitched  nervously. 

"  Look  here,  Lucy,  what  made  you  do  it  ?" 

"  You — was  away,  an*  you  didn't  know  about  it." 

"How  did  you  know  it  was  worth  while — that  I'd  ever 
come  back  ?" 

"  I  thought  you  might." 

"You  didn't  know." 

"  Mr.  Nelson  said  you  would.  He  got  news  that  you  was 
livin'  once  ;  somebody'd  seen  you ;  then  he  lost  track  of  you." 


"What  made  you  do  it?" 

*'  I  thought  you  hadn't  ought  to  lose  the  place." 

"  Well,  you  shall  have  the  money  part  of  it  made  up  to 
you."  Marlow  was  silent  for  a  moment.  "Lucy,"  said  he, 
finally,  "  I  never  was  so  beat  in  my  life  as  I  was  when  Nelson 
told  me  that  this  mornin.'  I've  been  thinkin' —  Look  here, 
didn't  we  go  together  a  little  once,  years  and  years  ago  ?" 

Lucy  turned  paler.  "  There  ain't  any  use  in  bringin* 
that  up,"  she  said,  with  a  certain  dignity. 

"  I  want  to  know  about  it.  Lucy,  did  I  treat  you  mean  ? 
We  wa'n't  much  more'n  children,  were  we  ?  We  didn't  talk 
about  gettin'  married,  did  we  ?  We  just  thought  we  liked 
each  other,  an'  kept  round  together  a  little  while  before  I 
went  away.  That  was  all,  wa'n't  it  ?" 

"  Yes,"  whispered  Lucy,  faintly.  Suddenly  she  put  her 
hands  up  to  her  face. 

Marlow  took  a  step  towards  her ;  then  he  went  back. 
"  Don't  cry,"  said  he.  "  Lucy,  see  here,  I'm  goin'  to  ask  you 
somethin'.  Didn't  you  forget,  all  this  time  ?  Lucy,  tell  me." 

She  shook  her  head. 

Marlow  shut  his  mouth  tight.  He  partly  turned  his  head 
away.  Then  he  spoke  again.  "  Look  here,  Lucy,  I'm  goin' 
to  tell  you  the  truth :  I  hadn't  remembered  as  well  as  you 

"  I  didn't — suppose  you  had."  She  turned  with  a  little 
state,  and  tried  to  move  towards  the  door. 

"  Don't  go  ;  I've  got  somethin'  I  want  to  say."  He  hesi 
tated  a  moment ;  then  he  went  on.  His  face  was  hot.  He 
foad  an  honest,  embarrassed  air,  like  a  boy.  "  I  wanted  to 
say  that —  Well,  I  thank  you  more'n  I  ever  thanked  any 
human  bein'  in  my  life.  I'd  lay  down  an'  die,  if  it  could 
do  you  any  good,  to  show  you  that  I  did.  An' — if — I'd  come 


home  different,  if  I'd  got  rich,  or  if  I'd  even  come  home  de« 
cent — if  I'd  behaved  myself,  and  if  I  looked  fit  and  was  fit 
to  be  seen  beside  you — I'd  ask  you  to  marry  me,  an'  do  all 
I  could  to  pay  you  for  thinkin'  of  me  all  this  time ;  but  as 
'tis,  there  ain't  any  use  speakin'  of  that.  All  I  can  say  is, 
I  wish  the  last  twenty  years  was  to  live  over." 

Lucy  gathered  a  shawl  about  her,  and  turned  to  go. 
"  I've  got  to  go  home  and  get  father's  dinner,"  she  said, 
brokenly.  ''There  ain't  any  use  in  bringin'  all  this  up." 

"  I  don't  s'pose  there  is  much,  but  I  kind  of  wanted  to 
speak  of  it,"  said  Marlow,  blushing  deeper.  "  Thank  you 
for  gettin'  my  dinner." 

"  That's  nothin'." 

He  watched  her  going  with  a  sinking  heart. 

"  She  wouldn't  think  of  havin'  me  now,"  he  said  to  himself. 

Lucy  was  half  out  of  the  yard,  when  she  turned  and  came 
back.  Marlow  opened  the  door  quickly.  There  she  stood, 
her  knees  trembling.  She  gasped  for  breath  between  her 

"There's— one  thing — I  didn't  mean  you  to  think — I 
didn't — want — you  to  think  that  it  would — make  any  dif 
ference  to  me  because — you  wa'n't  rich  or — " 

"  Lucy,  you  don't  mean  to  say  that  you'd  have  me  as  I 
am  now  ?"  Marlow  took  hold  of  one  of  her  thin  arms  and 
pulled  her  in  softly.  He  led  her  back  to  the  stove ;  then 
he  stood  looking  at  her  again.  "  Good  Lord,  Lucy  !"  he 
said,  "you  can't  think  anything  of  me,  the  way  I  am  now!" 

"  I  don't  see  why  you  ain't  just  as  well  as  you  ever  was.'* 

"I  ain't  worth  this,"  said  Marlow.  He  put  his  arm 
around  Lucy  and  kissed  her  forehead. 

She  stood  stiffly ;  then  she  released  herself,  and  went  ovei 
and  looked  out  of  a  window. 


"I'm  afraid  you  don't  think  enough  of  me,"  she  said, 
presently,  without  looking  around. 

"  I  guess  you  needn't  worry  about  that.  I  know  I  ain't 
been  thinkin'  about  you  all  these  years,  as  much  as  you 
have,  accordin'  to  what  you  say  about  me.  But — I'll  put  it 
this  way."  He  colored  and  half  laughed.  These  little 
flights  of  fancy  were  natural  to  him ;  he  took  them  in  his 
most  honest  moments ;  but  he  was  always  a  little  shame 
faced  about  it.  "Well,  s'pose  some  day — you  know  I've 
been  round  foreign  countries  an'  on  sea-shores  a  good  deal 
— s'pose  some  day  I'd  come  across  a  pearl  caught  into 
some  sea-weeds,  where  I  hadn't  no  idea  of  findin'  it.  Well, 
I  guess  it  wouldn't  have  made  much  difference  to  me 
whether  or  no  I'd  been  thinkin'  about  that  pearl  for  twenty 
years,  or  whether  I'd  ever  seen  it  an'  forgotten  it.  There'd 
been  the  pearl,  an'  I'd  been  the  man  that  had  it  I'll  think 
enough  of  you — you  needn't  bother  about  that.  I  don't 
know  what  I'd  be  made  of  if  I  didn't.  Good  Lord !  to  think 
of  me  havin'  you  f 

After  Lucy  had  been  home  and  attended  to  her  father's 
wants,  she  returned  and  spent  all  the  afternoon  making  the 
house  comfortable  for  Marlow. 

It  was  sunset  when  she  went  home  the  last  time.  It  had 
stopped  snowing,  and  there  was  a  clear,  yellow  sky  in  the 
west.  A  flock  of  sparrows  flew  whistling  around  one  of  the 
maples.  A  sled  loaded  with  Christmas  greens  was  creak 
ing  down  the  road.  One  could  hear  children's  voices  in 
the  distance.  Lucy  Glynn  sped  along.  Whether  wisely  or 
not,  she  was  full  of  all  Christmas  joy.  She  had  given  at 
last  her  Christmas  gift,  which  she  had  been  treasuring  fox 
twenty  years. 


"JEST  wait  a  minute,  Sary."  The  old  man  made  a  sly 
backward  motion  of  his  hand ;  his  voice  was  a  cautious 

Sarah  Arnold  stood  back  and  waited.  She  was  a  large, 
fair  young  woman  in  a  brown  calico  dress.  She  held  a 
plate  of  tapioca  pudding  that  she  had  brought  for  the  old 
man's  dinner,  and  she  was  impatient  to  give  it  to  him  and 
be  off;  but  she  said  nothing.  The  old  man  stood  in  the 
shop  door ;  he  had  in  one  hand  a  stick  of  red-and-white 
peppermint  candy,  and  he  held  it  out  enticingly  towards  a 
little  boy  in  a  white  frock.  The  little  boy  had  a  sweet,  rosy 
face,  and  his  glossy,  fair  hair  was  carefully  curled.  He  stood 
out  in  the  green  yard,  and  there  were  dandelions  blooming 
around  his  feet.  It  was  May,  and  the  air  was  sweet  and 
warm  ;  over  on  one  side  of  the  yard  there  was  some  linen 
laid  out  to  bleach  in  the  sun. 

The  little  boy  looked  at  the  old  man  and  frowned,  yet  he 
seemed  fascinated. 

The  old  man  held  out  the  stick  of  candy,  and  coaxed,  in 
his  soft,  cracked  voice.  "  Jest  look  a-here,  Willy !"  said  he ; 
"jest  look  a-here!  See  what  gran'pa's  got:  a  whole  stick 
of  candy !  He  bought  it  down  to  the  store  on  purpose  for 
Willy,  an'  he  can  have  it  if  he'll  jest  come  here  an'  give 

A   VILLAGE  LEAR.  269 

gran'pa  a  kiss.  Does  Willy  want  it,  hey? — Willy  want  it?* 
The  old  man  took  a  step  forward. 

But  the  child  drew  back,  and  shook  his  head  violently, 
while  the  frown  deepened.  "  No,  no,"  said  he,  with  baby 

The  old  man  stepped  back  and  began  again.  It  was  as 
if  he  were  enticing  a  bird.  "Now,  Willy,"  said  he,  "jest 
look  a-here  !  Don't  Willy  like  candy?" 

The  child  did  not  nod,  but  his  blue,  solemn  eyes  were 
riveted  on  the  candy. 

"  Well,"  the  grandfather  went  on,  "  here's  a  whole  stick 
of  candy  come  from  the  store,  real  nice  pep'mint  candy, 
an'  Willy  shall  have  it  if  he'll  jest  come  here  an'  give  gran' 
pa  a  kiss." 

The  child  reached  out  a  desperate  hand.  "Gimme !"  he 
cried,  imperatively. 

"  Yes,  Willy  shall  have  it  jest  as  soon  as  he  gives  gran'pa 
a  kiss."  The  old  man  waved  the  stick  of  candy ;  his  sunken 
mouth  was  curved  in  a  sly  smile.  "  Jest  look  at  it !  Willy, 
see  it !  Red-an'-white  candy,  real  sweet  an'  nice,  with  pep' 
mint  in  it.  An'  it's  all  twisted !  Willy  want  it  ?" 

The  child  began  to  take  almost  imperceptible  steps  for 
ward,  his  eyes  still  fixed  on  the  candy.  His  grandfather 
stood  motionless,  while  his  smile  deepened.  Once  he  rolled 
his  eyes  delightedly  around  at  Sarah.  The  child  advanced 
with  frequent  halts. 

Suddenly  the  old  man  made  a  spring  forward.  "Now 
I've  got  ye !"  he  cried.  He  threw  his  arms  around  the  boy 
and  hugged  him  tight. 

The  child  struggled.  "  Lemme  go ! — lemme  go !"  he  half 

"  Yes,  Willy  shall  go  jest  as  soon  as  he  gives  gran'pa  the 

270  A    VILLAGE  LEAR. 

kiss,"  said  the  old  man.  "  Give  gran'pa  the  kiss,  and  then 
he  shall  have  the  candy  an'  go." 

The  child  put  up  his  pretty  rosy  face  and  pursed  his  lips 
sulkily.  The  grandfather  bent  down  and  gave  him  an 
ecstatic  kiss. 

"  There !  Now  Willy  shall  have  the  candy,  'cause  he's 
kissed  gran'pa.  He's  a  good  boy,  an'  gran'pa  '11  let  him 
have  the  candy  right  off.  He  sha'n't  wait  no  longer." 

The  child  snatched  the  candy  and  fled  across  the  yard. 

The  old  man  laughed,  and  his  laugh  was  a  shrill,  rapt 
urous  cackle,  like  the  high  notes  of  an  old  parrot.  He 
turned  to  the  young  woman.  "  I  knowed  I  could  toll  him 
in,"  he  said ;  "  I  knowed  I  could.  The  little  fellar  likes 
candy,  I  tell  ye." 

Sarah  smiled  sympathetically  and  extended  the  plate  of 
pudding.  "  I  brought  you  over  a  little  of  our  pudding," 
said  she.  "  Mother  thought  you  might  relish  it." 

The  old  man  took  it  quite  eagerly.  "Brought  a  spoon 
in't,  didn't  ye  ?" 

"Yes ;  I  thought  maybe  you'd  like  to  eat  it  out  here." 

"  Well,  I  guess  I  may  jest  as  well  eat  it  out  here,  an'  not 
carry  it  into  the  house.  Viny  might  kinder  git  the  notion 
that  it  would  clutter  up  some.  I'll  jest  set  down  here  an' 
eat  this,  an'  then  I  won't  want  no  dinner  in  the  house.  I 
guess  they're  goin'  to  have  beef,  an'  I  don't  relish  beef 
much  lately.  I'd  ruther  have  soft  victuals ;  but  Viny  she 
don't  cook  much  soft  victuals ;  the  folks  in  the  house  don't 
care  much  about  'em." 

The  old  man  held  the  plate  of  pudding,  but  did  not  at 
once  begin  to  eat;  his  eyes  still  followed  the  little  boy, 
who  stood  aloof  under  a  blooming  apple-tree  and  sucked 
his  candy. 

A    VILLAGE  LEAR.  ±7! 

"  Jest  look  at  him,"  he  said,  admiringly.  "  I  tell  ye  what 
'tis,  Sary,  that  little  fellar  does  like  candy.  I  can  allers  toll 
him  in  with  a  stick  of  candy.  He's  dreadful  kind  o'  bash 
ful.  I  s'pose  Ellen  she  don't  jest  like  to  have  him  round 
in  the  shop  here  much.  She  dresses  him  up  real  nice  an' 
clean  in  them  little  white  frocks,  an'  she's  afeard  he'll  get 
somethin'  on  'em ;  so  I  guess  she  tells  him  he  must  keep 
away,  an'  it  makes  him  kind  of  afeard.  I  s'pose  she  thinks 
I  ain't  none  too  clean  nuther  to  be  a-handlin'  of  him,  an'  I 
dun  know  as  I  be,  but  I  allers  wash  my  hands  real  pertick- 
ler  afore  I  tech  him.  I've  got  my  tin  wash-dish  there  on 
the  bench,  an'  I'm  real  pertickler  'bout  it." 

The  old  man  waved  his  hand  towards  a  rusty  tin  wash 
basin  on  the  old  shoemaker's  bench  under  the  window. 
There  was  a  smoky  curtain  over  the  window ;  the  plastered 
walls  and  the  ceiling  were  dark  with  smoke;  the  place  was 
full  of  brown  lights.  Sarah,  in  her  brown  dress,  with  her 
fair  rosy  face,  stood  waiting  until  the  old  man  should  finish 

"Well,  I  must  go  now,"  said  she.  "I  haven't  been  to 
dinner  myself." 

"  You  jest  wait  a  minute,"  whispered  the  old  man,  with 
a  mysterious  air.  In  the  little  shop,  beside  the  old  shoe 
maker's  bench,  was  a  table  that  was  brown  and  dark  with 
age  and  dirt,  and  it  was  heaped  with  litter.  There  was  a 
drawer  in  it,  and  this  the  old  man  opened  with  an  effort  j 
it  stuck  a  little.  "  Look  a-here,"  he  whispered — "  look 
a-here,  Sary." 

Sarah  came  close,  and  peered  around  his  elbow. 

The  old  man  took  a  little  parcel  from  the  midst  of  the 
leather  chips  and  waxed  threads  and  pegs  that  half  filled 
the  drawer.  He  unrolled  it  carefully.  "  Look  a-here,"  he 



said  again,  with  a  chuckle.  He  held  up  a  stick  of  pink 
candy.  "  There,"  he  went  on,  winking  an  old  blue  eye  at 
Sarah,  "  I  ain't  goin'  to  give  that  to  him  till  to-raorrer.  To- 
morrer  I'll  jest  toll  him  in  with  that,  don't  ye  see?  Hey  ?" 

"  That's  checkerberry,  ain't  it  ?" 

"Yes,  that's  checkerberry,  an'  the  tother  was  pep'mint. 
I  got  two  sticks  of  candy  down  to  the  store  this  mornin', 
one  checkerberry  an'  the  tother  pep'mint.  Ye  see,  I  put  a 
patch  on  a  shoe  for  the  Briggs  boy  last  week,  an'  he  give 
me  ten  cents  for't.  I'd  kinder  calkilated  to  lay  it  out  in 
terbacker — I  ain't  had  none  lately — but  the  more  I  thought 
'bout  it  the  more  I  thought  I'd  git  a  leetle  candy.  Ye  never 
see  sech  a  chap  fer  candy  as  he  is ;  he'll  hang  off,  an'  hang 
off,  but  he  can't  stan'  it  to  lose  the  candy  nohow.  I  dun 
know  but  the  Old  Nick  could  toll  him  in  with  a  stick  of 
candy,  he's  in  such  a  takin'  for't ;  never  see  sech  a  fellar 
fer  candy."  The  old  man  raised  his  cackling  laugh  again, 
and  Sarah  laughed  too,  going  out  the  back  door  of  the 
shop.  "  I'm  real  obleeged  to  your  mother,  Sary ;  you  tell 
her,"  he  called  after  her. 

He  replaced  the  candy  in  the  drawer,  still  chuckling  to 
himself;  then  he  sat  down  to  his  pudding.  He  sat  on  his 
shoemaker's  bench,  well  back  from  the  door,  and  ate.  He 
smacked  his  lips  loudly ;  he  liked  this  soft,  sweet  food. 

Barney  Swan  was  a  small,  frail  old  man  ;  he  stooped 
weakly,  and  did  not  look  much  larger  than  a  child,  sitting 
there  on  his  bench.  His  face,  too,  was  like  a  child's ;  his 
sunken  mouth  had  an  innocent,  infantile  expression,  and  his 
eyes  had  that  blank,  fixed  gaze,  with  an  occasional  twinkle 
of  shrewdness,  that  babies'  eyes  have.  His  thin  white  hair 
hung  to  his  shoulders,  and  he  had  no  beard.  He  owned 
only  one  decent  coat,  and  that  he  kept  for  Sundays :  he 

A    VILLAGE  LEAR.  173 

always  went  to  meeting.  On  week-days  he  wore  his  brown 
calico  shirt  sleeves  and  his  old  sagging  vest.  His  bag 
ging,  brownish  black  trousers  were  hauled  high  around  his 
waist,  and  his  ankles  showed  like  a  little  boy's. 

Old  Barney  Swan  had  sat  upon  that  shoemaker's  bench 
the  greater  part  of  his  time  for  sixty  years.  His  father  be 
fore  him  had  been  a  shoemaker  and  cobbler ;  he  had  learned 
the  trade  when  a  child,  and  been  faithful  to  it  all  his  life. 
Now  not  only  his  own  powers  had  failed,  but  hand  shoe- 
making  and  cobbling  were  at  a  discount.  There  were  two 
thriving  boot  and  shoe  factories  in  the  town,  and  the  new 
boots  and  shoes  were  finer  to  see  than  the  old  coarsely  cob- 
bled  ones.  Old  Barney  was  too  old  to  go  to  work  in  the 
shoe  factory,  but  it  is  doubtful  if  he  would  have  done  so  in 
any  case.  He  had  always  had  a  vein  of  childish  obstinacy 
in  spite  of  his  mildness,  and  it  had  not  decreased  with  age. 
"  If  folks  want  to  wear  them  manufactured  shoes,  they  can," 
he  would  say,  with  a  sudden  stiffening  of  his  bent  back;  "  old 
shackly  things !  You'd  orter  seen  them  shoes  the  Briggs 
boy  brought  in  here  t'other  day ;  they  wa'n't  wuth  treein' 
up,  an'  they  never  had  been." 

Although  now  old  Barney's  revenue  was  derived  from 
the  Briggs  boy  and  sundry  other  sturdy,  stubbed  urchins, 
whose  shoe-leather  demanded  the  cheapest  and  most  thor 
ough  repairs  to  be  had,  he  had  accumulated  quite  a  little 
property  through  his  faithful  toil  on  that  leathern  seat  on 
the  end  of  that  old  bench.  But  it  had  seemed  easier  for 
him  to  accumulate  property  than  to  care  for  it.  His  great 
est  talent  was  for  patient,  unremitting  labor  and  economy ; 
his  financial  conceptions  were  limited  to  them.  Ten  years 
before,  he  had  made  a  misadventure  and  lost  a  few  hun 
dred  dollars,  and  was  so  humbled  and  dejected  over  it  that 


he  had  made  his  property  over  to  his  daughters  on  consid 
eration  of  a  life  support.  They  had  long  been  urging  him 
to  make  such  an  arrangement.  He  had  two  daughters, 
Malvina  and  Ellen.  His  wife  had  died  when  they  were 
about  twenty.  The  wife  had  been  a  delicate,  feeble  woman, 
yet  with  a  certain  spirit  of  her  own.  In  her  day  the  daugh 
ters  had  struggled  hard  for  the  mastery  of  the  little  house 
hold,  but  with  only  partial  success ;  after  her  death  they 
were  entirely  victorious.  Barney  had  always  thought  his 
daughters  perfect ;  they  had  their  own  way  in  everything, 
with  the  exception  of  the  money.  He  clung  to  that  for  a 
while.  He  was  childishly  fond  of  the  few  dollars  he  had 
earned  all  by  himself  and  stowed  away  in  his  house  and 
acres  of  green  meadow-land  and  the  village  savings-bank. 
He  was  fond  of  the  dollars  for  themselves ;  the  sense  of 
treasure  pleased  him.  He  did  not  care  to  spend  for  him 
self;  there  were  few  things  that  he  wished  for  except  a 
decent  meeting-coat  and  a  little  tobacco.  The  tobacco 
was  one  point  upon  which  he  displayed  his  obstinacy ;  his 
daughters  had  never  been  able  entirely  to  do  away  with 
that,  although  they  waged  constant  war  upon  it.  He  would 
still  occasionally  have  his  little  comforting  pipe,  and  chew 
in  spite  of  all  berating  and  disgust.  But  the  tobacco  was 
sadly  curtailed  since  the  property  had  changed  hands ;  he 
had  only  his  little  earnings  with  which  to  purchase  it.  The 
daughters  gave  him  no  money  to  spend.  They  argued  that 
"  father  ain't  fit  to  spend  money."  So  his  most  urgent  ne 
cessities  were  doled  out  to  him. 

When  the  property  was  divided,  Malvina,  the  elder 
daughter,  had  for  her  share  the  homestead  and  a  part  of 
the  money  in  the  bank ;  Ellen,  the  younger,  had  the  larger 
portion  of  the  bank  money  and  some  wooded  property. 



Malvina  stipulated  to  furnish  a  home  and  care  for  the  old 
man  as  long  as  he  lived,  and  Ellen  was  to  pay  her  sister  a 
certain  sum  towards  his  support.  Both  daughters  were  mar 
ried  at  the  time ;  Malvina  had  one  daughter  of  her  own. 
Malvina  had  remained  at  her  old  home  after  her  marriage, 
but  Ellen  had  removed  to  a  town  some  twenty  miles  away. 
Her  father  had  visited  there  several  times,  but  he  never  liked 
to  remain  long.  He  would  never  have  gone  had  not  Malvina 
insisted  upon  it.  She  considered  that  her  sister  ought  to 
share  her  burden,  and  sometimes  give  her  a  relief.  So  Bar 
ney  would  go,  although  with  reluctance ;  in  fact,  his  little  shoe- 
shop  was  to  him  his  beloved  home,  his  small  solitary  nest, 
where  he  could  fold  his  old  wings  in  peace.  Nobody  knew 
how  regretfully  he  thought  of  it  during  his  visits  at  Ellen's. 
While  there  he  sat  mostly  in  her  kitchen,  by  the  cooking- 
stove,  and  miserably  pored  over  the  almanac  or  the  relig 
ious  paper.  Occasionally  he  would  steal  out  behind  the 
barn  and  smoke  a  pipe,  but  there  was  always  a  hard  reck 
oning  with  Ellen  afterwards,  and  it  was  a  dearly  purchased 
pleasure.  Ellen  was  a  small,  fair  woman ;  she  was  deli 
cate,  much  as  her  mother  had  been,  and  her  weakness  and 
nervousness  made  her  imperious  will  less  evident  but  more 
potent.  Old  Barney  stood  more  in  awe  of  her  than  of  Mal 
vina.  He  was  anxiously  respectful  towards  her  husband, 
who  was  a  stout,  silent  man,  covering  his  own  projects  and 
his  own  defeats  with  taciturnity.  He  was  a  steady  grubber 
on  a  farm,  and  very  close  with  old  Barney's  money,  of 
which,  however,  his  wife  understood  that  she  had  full  con 
trol.  She  had  had  out  of  it  a  set  of  red  plush  parlor  furni 
ture  and  a  new  silk  dress.  Once  in  a  while  old  Barney, 
while  on  a  visit,  would  stand  on  the  parlor  threshold  and 
gaze  admiringly  in  at  the  furniture;  but  did  he  venture  to 

2;6  *   VILLAGE  LEAR. 

step  over,  his  daughter  would  check  him.  "  Now  don't  go 
in  there,  father,"  she  would  cry  out ;  "  you'll  track  in  some- 

"  No,  I  ain't  a-goin'  in,  Ellen,"  Barney  would  reply,  and 
meekly  shuffle  back. 

Old  Barney  was  intensely  loyal  towards  both  of  his  daugh 
ters  ;  not  even  to  himself  would  he  admit  anything  to  their  dis 
advantage.  He  always  spoke  admiringly  of  them,  and  would 
acknowledge  no  preference  for  one  above  the  other.  Still 
he  undoubtedly  preferred  Malvina.  She  was  a  large,  stout 
woman,  but  some  people  thought  that  she  looked  like  her 
father.  When  the  property  was  divided,  Malvina  had  had 
every  room  in  the  house  newly  painted  and  papered ;  then 
she  stood  before  them  like  a  vigilant  watch-dog.  She  had 
been  neat  before,  but  with  her  new  paint  and  paper  and  a 
few  new  carpets  her  neatness  became  almost  a  monomania. 
She  was  fairly  fierce,  and  her  voice  sounded  like  a  bark 
sometimes  when  old  Barney,  with  shoes  heavy  with  loam 
and  clothes  stained  with  tobacco  juice,  shuffled  into  her 
spotless  house.  However,  in  a  certain  harsh  way  she  did 
her  duty  by  her  simple  old  father.  She  saw  to  it  that  his 
clothes  were  comfortably  warm  and  mended,  and  he  had 
enough  to  eat,  although  his  own  individual  tastes  were  never 
consulted.  Still,  he  was  scrupulously  bidden  to  meals,  and 
his  plate  was  well  filled.  She  did  not  like  to  have  him  in 
the  house,  and  showed  that  she  did  not,  but  she  had  no 
compunctions  upon  that  point,  for  he  preferred  the  shop. 
She  never  gave  him  spending-money,  for  she  did  not  con 
sider  that  he  was  capable  of  spending  money  judiciously. 
She  bought  all  that  he  had  herself.  She  was  a  good  finan 
cier,  and  made  a  little  go  a  long  way. 

Malvina's  husband  was  dead,  and  her  daughter  was  now 

A   VILLAGE  LEAR.  277 

eighteen  years  old.  Her  name  was  Annie.  She  was  a 
pretty  girl,  and  had  a  lover.  She  was  to  be  married  soon. 
They  had  not  told  old  Barney  about  it,  but  he  found  it  out 
two  weeks  before  the  wedding.  He  stood  in  his  shop  door 
one  morning  and  called  cautiously  to  Sarah  Arnold.  (The 
Arnolds  lived  in  the  next  house,  and  Sarah  was  out  in  the 
yard  picking  some  roses.)  " Sary,  come  here  a  minute," 
he  called.  And  Sarah  came,  with  her  roses  in  her  hand. 
The  old  man  beckoned  her  mysteriously  into  the  shop. 
He  drew  well  back  from  the  door,  after  having  peered 
sharply  at  the  house  windows.  Then  he  began :  "  Ye 
heard  on't,  Sary,"  whispered  he — "what's  goin'  on  in 
there  ?  Hey  ?"  He  gave  his  hand  a  backward  jerk  tow 
ards  the  house. 

Sarah  laughed.     "  I  suppose  so,"  said  she. 
"  How  long  ye  known  it  ?     Hey  ?" 
"  Well,  I've  heard  'twas  coming  off  before  long." 
"  The  weddin's  goin'  to  be  in  two  weeks.     Did  ye  know 
that?     Hey?" 
"I  heard  so." 

"  Well,  it's  the  first  I've  heard  on't.  I  knew  that  young 
fellar'd  been  shinin'  round  there  consider'ble,  an'  I  spos'd 
'twas  comin'  off  some  time  or  other,  but  I  didn't  idee 
'twas  goin'  to  be  so  soon.  Look  a-here,  Sary  " —  Sarah, 
placid  and  fair  and  pleasant,  holding  her  roses,  gazed  atten 
tively  at  him — "  fm — a-goirf  to — give  her  somethiri  f 
"  What  are  you  going  to  give  her  ?" 
"  Ye'll  see.  I've  got  some  money  laid  up,  an'  I  know  a 
way  to  raise  a  leetle  more.  Ye'll  see  when  the  time  comes 
— ye'll  see."  The  old  man  raised  his  pleasant  cackle,  then 
he  hushed  it  suddenly,  with  a  wary  glance  towards  the  house. 
"You  mind  you  don't  say  nothin'  about  it,  Sary,"  said  he. 

278  A    VILLAGE  LEAR. 

"  No,  I  won't  say  a  word  about  it,"  returned  Sarah.  Then 
she  went  home  with  her  roses  and  her  own  thoughts.  She 
herself  was  to  be  married  soon,  but  there  would  be  no  such 
commotion  over  her  wedding  as  over  Annie's.  The  Arnolds 
were  very  humble  folk,  according  to  the  social  status  of  the 
village,  and  were  not  on  very  intimate  terms  with  their 
neighbors.  Old  Mr.  Arnold  took  care  of  people's  gardens 
and  sawed  wood  for  a  living,  and  Mrs.  Arnold  and  Sarah 
sewed,  and  even  went  out  for  extra  work  when  some  of  the 
more  prosperous  village  people  had  company.  However, 
Sarah  was  going  to  marry  a  young  man  who  had  saved 
quite  a  sum  of  money.  He  was  building  a  new  house  on 
a  cross  street  at  the  foot  of  a  meadow  that  lay  behind  Bar 
ney  Swan's  shop.  Sarah  had  told  Barney  all  about  it,  and 
he  often  strolled  down  the  meadow  and  watched  the  work 
men  on  the  new  house  with  a  wise  and  interested  air.  He 
was  very  fond  of  Sarah.  Sarah  had  her  own  opinion  about 
Annie  and  the  old  man's  daughters,  but  she  was  calm  about 
expressing  it  even  to  her  mother.  She  was  a  womanly 
young  girl.  However,  once  in  a  while  her  indignation  grew 

"  I  think  it's  a  shame,"  she  told  her  mother,  when  she 
carried  her  roses  into  the  house,  "that  they  haven't  told 
Grandpa  Swan  about  Annie's  going  to  be  married,  and  the 
poor  old  man's  planning  to  give  her  a  present."  The  tears 
stood  in  Sarah's  blue  eyes.  She  crowded  the  roses  into  a 

It  was  only  the  next  day  that  old  Barney  called  her  into 
the  shop  to  display  the  present.  He  had  been  so  eager 
about  it  that  he  was  not  able  to  wait.  However,  the  idea 
that  the  gift  must  not  be  presented  to  his  granddaughter 
until  her  wedding-day  was  firmly  fixed  in  his  mind.  He 



had  obtained  in  some  way  this  notion  of  etiquette,  and  he 
was  resolved  to  abide  by  it,  no  matter  how  impatient  he 
might  be.  "  I've  got  it  here  all  ready,  but  I  ain't  a-goin' 
to  give  it  to  her  till  the  day  she's  married,  ye  know,"  he  told 
Sarah  while  he  was  fumbling  in  the  table-drawer  (that  was 
his  poor  little  treasure-box).  There  he  kept  his  surrepti 
tious  quids  of  tobacco  and  his  pipe  and  his  small  hoards 
of  pennies.  His  hands  trembled  as  he  drew  out  a  little 
square  parcel.  He  undid  it  with  slow  pains.  "  Look 
a-here  !"  In  a  little  jeweller's  box,  on  a  bed  of  pink  cotton, 
lay  a  gold-plated  brooch  with  a  red  stone  in  the  centre. 
The  old  man  stood  holding  it,  and  looking  at  Sarah  with  a 
speechless  appeal  for  admiration. 

"  Why,  ain't  it  handsome  !"  said  she  ;  "  it's  just  as  pretty 
as  it  can  be  !" 

Old  Barney  still  did  not  speak;  he  stood  holding  the 
box,  as  silent  as  a  statue  whose  sole  purpose  is  to  pose  for 

"  Where  did  you  get  it  ?"  asked  Sarah. 

The  old  man  ushered  in  his  words  with  an  exultant 
chuckle.  "  Down  to  Bixby's  ;  an'  'twas  jest  about  the 
pertiest  thing  he  had  in  his  hull  store.  It  cost  con- 
sider'ble;  I  ain't  a-goin'  to  tell  ye  how  much,  but  I  didn't 
pay  no  ninepence  for't,  I  can  tell  ye.  But  I  had  a  leetle 
somethin'  laid  up,  an'  there  was  some  truck  I  traded  off.  I 
was  bound  I'd  git  somethin'  wuth  somethin'  whilst  I  was 
about  it." 

As  Barney  spoke,  Sarah  noticed  that  his  old  silver  watch- 
chain  was  gone,  and  a  suspicion  as  to  the  "  truck  "  seized 
her,  but  she  did  not  speak  of  it.  She  admired  the  brooch 
to  Barney's  full  content,  and  he  stowed  it  away  in  the  drawer 
with  pride  and  triumph.  He  was  true  to  his  resolution  not 

280  A   VILLAGE  LEAR. 

to  mention  the  present  to  his  granddaughter,  but  he  could 
not  help  throwing  out  sundry  sly  hints  to  the  effect  that  one 
was  forthcoming.  However,  no  one  paid  any  attention  to 
them ;  they  knew  too  well  the  state  of  Barney's  exchequer 
to  have  any  great  expectations,  and  all  the  family  were  in 
the  habit  of  disregarding  the  old  man's  chatter.  He  always 
talked  a  great  deal,  and  asked  many  questions ;  and  they 
seemed  to  look  upon  him  much  in  the  light  of  a  venerable 
cricket,  constantly  chirping  upon  their  hearth,  which  for 
some  obscure  religious  reasons  they  were  bound  to  harbor. 

The  question  of  old  Barney's  appearance  at  the  marriage 
was  quite  a  serious  one.  The  wedding  was  to  be  a  brilliant 
affair  for  the  village,  and  the  old  man  was  not  to  be  consid 
ered  in  the  light  of  an  ornament.  Still  the  idea  of  not  al 
lowing  him  to  be  present  could  not  decently  be  entertained, 
and  Malvina  began  training  him  to  make  the  best  appear 
ance  possible.  She  instructed  him  as  to  his  deportment, 
and  had  even  made  a  new  black  silk  stock  for  him  to  wear 
at  the  wedding.  He  was  so  delighted  that  he  wanted  to 
take  possession  at  once,  and  hide  it  away  in  his  table-drawer, 
but  she  would  not  allow  it.  She  had  planned  how  he  should 
be  well  shaven  and  thoroughly  brushed,  and  his  pockets 
searched  for  tobacco,  on  the  wedding  morning.  "  I  should 
feel  like  goin'  through  the  floor  if  your  grandfather  should 
come  in  lookin'  the  way  he  does  sometimes,"  she  told  her 
daughter  Annie. 

Annie  concerned  herself  very  little  about  it  She  was  a 
young  girl  of  a  sweet,  docile  temperament.  She  was  some 
what  delicate  physically,  and  was  indolent,  partly  from  that, 
partly  from  her  nature.  Now  her  mother  was  making  her 
work  so  hard  over  her  wedding  clothes  that  she  was  half  ill ; 
her  little  forefinger  was  all  covered  with  needle-pricks,  and 

A   VILLAGE  LEAR.  281 

there  were  hollows  under  her  eyes.  Malvina  had  always 
been  a  veritable  queen  mother  to  Annie. 

Ellen  and  her  little  boy  visited  Malvina  for  several  weeks 
before  the  wedding.  Ellen  assisted  about  the  sewing ;  she 
was  a  fine  sewer. 

Old  Barney  did  not  dare  stay  much  in  the  house,  but  he 
wandered  about  the  yard,  and  absurdly  peeped  in  at  the 
doors  and  windows.  Back  in  his  second  childhood,  he  had 
all  the  delighted  excitement  of  a  child  over  a  great  occasion. 
It  was  perhaps  a  poor  and  pitiful  happiness,  but  he  was  as 
happy  in  his  own  way  as  Annie  was  over  her  coming  mar 
riage,  and,  after  all,  happiness  is  only  one's  own  heartful. 

But  three  days  before  the  wedding  old  Barney  was  at 
tacked  with  a  severe  cold,  and  all  his  anticipations  came  to 
naught.  The  cold  grew  worse,  and  his  daughters  promptly 
decided  that  he  could  not  be  present  at  the  wedding. 
"  There  ain't  no  use  talkin'  'bout  it,  father,"  said  Malvina ; 
"  you  can't  go.  You'd  jest  cough  an'  sneeze  right  through 
it,  an'  we  can't  have  such  work." 

The  old  man  pleaded,  even  with  tears,  but  with  no  avail  ; 
on  the  wedding  day  he  was  almost  forcibly  exiled  to  his  lit 
tle  shop  in  the  yard.  The  excitement  in  the  house  reached 
a  wild  height,  and  he  was  not  allowed  to  enter  after  break 
fast  ;  his  dinner  of  bread  and  butter  and  tea  was  brought 
down  to  the  shop.  He  sat  in  the  door  and  watched  the 
house  and  the  hurrying  people.  He  called  Sarah  Arnold 
over  many  times ;  he  was  in  a  panic  over  his  present. 
"  How  am  I  goin'  to  give  her  that  breastpin,  if  they  don't 
let  me  go  to  the  weddin'  ?"  he  queried,  with  sharp  anxiety. 
"There  sha'n't  nobody  else  give  her  that  pin  nohow." 

"  I  guess  you'll  have  a  chance,"  Sarah  said,  comfortingly. 

When  it  was  time  for  the  people  to  come  to  the  wedding, 

282  A    VILLAGE  LEAR. 

Ellen,  in  her  silk  dress,  with  her  hair  finely  crimped,  came 
rustling  out  to  the  shop,  and  ordered  old  Barney  away  from 
the  door. 

"  Do  keep  away  from  the  door,  father,"  said  she,  "  for 
mercy  sakes.  Such  a  spectacle  as  you  are,  an'  the  folks 
beginnin'  to  come  !  I  should  think  you'd  know  better." 
Ellen's  forehead  was  all  corrugated  with  anxious  lines ;  she 
was  nervous  and  fretful.  She  even  pushed  her  father  away 
from  the  door  with  one  long,  veiny  hand  ;  then  she  shut  the 
door  with  a  clash. 

Then  Barney  stood  at  the  window  and  watched.  He  held 
the  little  jewelry-box  tightly  clutched  in  his  hand.  The 
window-panes  were  all  clouded  and  cobwebbed  ;  it  was  hard 
for  his  dim  old  eyes  to  see  through  them,  but  he  held  back 
the  stained  curtain  and  peered  as  sharply  as  he  could. 

He  saw  the  neighbors  come  to  the  wedding.  Several 
covered  wagons  were  hitched  out  in  the  yard.  When  the 
minister  came  into  the  yard  he  could  scarcely  keep  himself 
from  rushing  to  the  door. 

"  There  he  is !"  he  said  out  loud  to  himself.  "  There  he 
is  !  He's  come  to  marry  'em  !" 

The  hubbub  of  voices  in  the  house  reached  old  Barney's 
ears.  A  little  after  the  minister  arrived  there  was  a  hush. 
"  He's  marryin'  of  'em  !"  ejaculated  Barney.  He  danced 
up  and  down  before  the  window. 

After  the  hush  the  voices  swelled  out  louder  than  before. 
Barney  kept  his  eyes  riveted  upon  the  house.  It  was  some 
two  hours  before  people  began  to  issue  from  the  doors. 

"  The  weddin's  over !"  shouted  Barney.  He  looked  quite 
wild  ;  he  gave  himself  a  little  shake,  and  opened  the  shop 
door  and  took  up  his  stand  there.  Everybody  could  see 
him  in  his  brown  calico  shirt-sleeves,  and  his  slouching,  un- 

A    VILLAGE  LEAR.  283 

tidy  vest  and  trousers.  His  white  locks  straggled  over  his 
shoulders ;  his  face  was  not  very  clean.  Suddenly  Ellen, 
standing  and  smirking  in  the  house  door,  spied  him. 
Presently  she  came  across  the  yard,  swaying  her  rattling 
skirts  with  a  genteel  air.  She  smiled  all  the  way,  and  old 
Barney  innocently  smiled  back  at  her  when  she  reached 
him.  But  he  jumped,  her  voice  was  so  fierce. 

"  You  go  right  in  there  this  minute,  father,  an'  keep  that 
door  shut"  she  said  between  her  smiling  lips. 

She  shut  the  door  upon  Barney,  but  she  had  no  sooner 
reached  the  house  than  he  opened  it  again  and  stood  there. 
He  still  held  the  box. 

The  bridal  pair  were  to  set  up  housekeeping  in  a  village 
ten  miles  away.  They  were  to  drive  over  that  night.  When 
at  last  the  bridegroom  and  the  bride  appeared  in  the  door, 
old  Barney  leaned  forward,  breathless.  The  bridegroom's 
glossy  buggy  and  bay  horse  stood  in  the  yard ;  the  horse 
was  restive,  and  a  young  man  was  holding  him  by  the  bridle. 

Old  Barney  did  not  venture  to  step  outside  his  shop  door. 
Malvina  and  Ellen  were  both  in  the  yard,  but  it  was  as  if 
his  soul  were  feeling  for  ways  to  approach  the  young  couple. 
He  leaned  forward,  his  eyes  were  intent  and  prominent,  the 
hand  that  held  the  jewelry-box  shook  with  long,  rigid  motions. 

The  bride,  at  her  husband's  side,  stepped  across  the  green 
yard  to  the  buggy.  This  was  a  simple  country  wedding, 
and  Annie  rode  in  her  wedding  dress  to  her  new  home. 
The  wedding  dress  was  white  muslin,  full  of  delicate  frills 
and  loops  of  ribbons  that  the  wind  caught.  Annie,  coming 
across  the  yard,  was  blown  to  one  side  like  a  white  flower. 
Her  slender  neck  and  arms  showed  pink  through  the  mus 
lin,  and  she  wore  her  wedding  bonnet,  which  was  all  white, 
with  bows  of  ribbon  and  plumes.  Her  cheeks  were  very  red 

284  A    VILLAGE  LEAR. 

Old  Barney  opened  his  mouth  wide.  "  Good  Lord  !"  said 
he,  with  one  great  gasp  of  admiration.  He  laughed  in  a 
kind  of  rapture  j  he  forgot  for  a  minute  his  wedding  present. 
"  Look  at  'em ! — jest  look  at  'em !"  he  repeated.  Suddenly 
he  called  out,  "  Annie !  Annie  !  jest  look  a-here  !  See  what 
gran'pa's  got  for  ye." 

Annie  stopped  and  looked.  She  hesitated,  and  seemed 
about  to  approach  Barney,  when  the  horse  started;  the 
young  man  had  hard  work  to  hold  him.  The  bridegroom 
lifted  the  bride  into  the  carriage  as  soon  as  the  horse  was 
quiet  enough,  sprang  in  after  her,  and  they  flew  out  of  the 
yard,  with  everybody  shouting  merrily  after  them.  Old 
Barney's  piteous  cry  of  "  Annie !  Annie !  jest  come  here  a 
minute !"  was  quite  lost. 

The  old  man  went  into  the  shop  and  closed  the  door  of 
his  own  accord.  Then  he  replaced  the  little  box  in  the 
table-drawer.  Then  he  settled  down  on  his  old  shoe-bench, 
and  dropped  his  head  on  his  hands.  Soon  he  had  a  severe 
coughing-spell.  Nobody  came  near  him  until  it  was  quite 
dark ;  then  Malvina  came  and  asked  him,  in  a  hard,  absent 
way,  if  he  were  not  coming  into  the  house  to  have  any  sup 
per  that  night. 

Old  Barney  arose  and  shuffled  after  her  into  the  house ; 
he  ate  the  supper  that  she  gave  him ;  then  he  went  to  bed. 
He  never  took  Annie's  gold  brooch  out  of  the  drawer  again. 
He  never  spoke  of  it  to  Sarah  Arnold  nor  any  one  else. 
He  had  the  grieved  dignity  that  pertains  to  the  donor  of  a 
scorned  gift.  As  the  weeks  went  on,  his  cold  grew  no  bet 
ter  ;  he  coughed  harder  and  harder.  Once  Malvina  bought 
some  cough  medicine  for  him,  but  it  did  no  good.  The  old 
man  grew  thinner  and  weaker,  but  she  did  not  realize  that ; 
the  cough  arrested  her  attention  ;  it  tired  her  to  hear  it  so 

A    VILLAGE  LEAR.  285 

constantly.  She  told  him  that  there  was  no  need  of  his 
coughing  so  much. 

Sarah  Arnold  was  married  in  August.  She  and  her  hus 
band  went  to  live  in  their  new  house  across  the  meadow 
from  old  Barney's  shop. 

Sarah  had  been  married  a  few  weeks  when  one  night  old 
Barney  came  toddling  down  the  meadow  to  her  house.  He 
was  so  weak  that  he  tottered,  but  he  almost  ran.  The  short 
growth  of  golden-rod  brushing  his  ankles  seemed  enough  to 
throw  him  over.  He  waded  through  it  as  through  a  golden 
sea  that  would  soon  throw  him  from  his  footing  and  roll 
over  him,  but  he  never  slackened  his  pace  until  he  reached 
Sarah's  door.  She  had  seen  him  coming,  and  ran  to  meet 

"Why,  what  is  the  matter?"  she  cried.  Old  Barney's 
face  was  pale  and  wild.  He  looked  at  her  and  gasped. 
She  caught  him  by  the  arm  and  dragged  him  into  the  house, 
and  set  him  in  a  chair.  "What  is  the  matter?"  she  asked 
again.  She  looked  white  and  frightened  herself. 

Old  Barney  did  not  reply  for  a  minute  ;  he  seemed  to  be 
collecting  breath.  Then  he  burst  out  in  a  great  sobbing 
cry  :  "  My  shop  !  my  shop  !  She's  goin'  to  have  my  shop 
tore  down !  They're  goin'  to  begin  to-morrer.  They're 
movin'  my  bench.  Oh  !  oh  !" 

Sarah  stood  close  to  him  and  patted  his  head.  "Who's 
goin'  to  have  it  torn  down  ?'1 

"  Mai— viny." 

"When  did  she  say  so?" 

"Jest — now — come  out  an'  told  me.  Says  the — old — 
thing  looks  dreadful  bad  out — in  the  yard,  an'  she  wants  it 
— tore  down.  She's  goin'  to  have  me — go  to  Ellen's  an' 
stay — all  winter.  Puttin'  my  bench  up — in  the  garret.  I 

286  A   VILLAGE  LEAR. 

ain't — a-goin'  to  have  the — bench  to  set  on — no  longer,  I 
ain't.  Oh,  hum !" 

Sarah's  pleasant  mouth  was  set  hard.  She  made  old 
Barney  lie  down  on  her  sitting-room  lounge,  and  got  him  a 
cup  of  tea.  It  was  evident  that  the  old  man  was  completely 
exhausted ;  he  could  not  have  walked  home  had  he  tried. 
Sarah  sat  down  beside  him  and  heard  his  complaint,  and 
tried  to  comfort  him.  When  her  husband  came  home  to 
tea  she  told  him  the  story,  and  he  went  up  across  the 
meadow  to  the  shop  before  he  took  off  his  coat. 

"  It's  so,"  he  growled,  when  he  returned.  "  They're  lug 
ging  the  things  out.  It's  a  blasted  shame.  Poor  old  man  !" 

Sarah's  husband  had  a  brown  boyish  face  and  a  set  chin  ; 
he  took  off  his  coat  and  began  washing  his  hands  at  the 
kitchen  sink  with  such  energy  that  the  leather  stains  might 
have  been  the  ingratitude  of  the  world. 

"Did  you  say  anything  about  his  being  down  here?" 
asked  Sarah. 

"  No,  I  didn't.     Let  'em  hunt." 

About  nine  o'clock  that  evening  Malvina,  holding  her 
skirts  up  well,  came  striding  over  the  meadow.  She  had 
missed  her  father,  and  traced  him  to  Sarah's.  Sarah  and 
her  husband  had  put  him  to  bed  in  their  pretty  little  spare 
chamber  when  Malvina  came  in.  It  was  evident  that  the 
old  man  was  very  ill ;  he  was  wandering  a  little,  and  he  had 
terrible  paroxysms  of  coughing ;  his  breath  was  labored. 
Malvina  stood  looking  at  him  ;  Sarah's  husband  kept  open 
ing  his  mouth  to  speak,  and  his  wife  kept  nudging  him  to  be 
silent.  Finally  he  spoke — 

"  He's  all  upset  because  his  shop's  going  to  be  torn  down/1 
said  he  ;  but  his  voice  was  not  as  bold  as  his  intentions. 

"  Tain't  that,"  replied  Malvina.     "  He's  dretful  careless ; 

A   VILLAGE   LEAR.  287 

he's  been  goin'  round  in  his  stockin'-feet,  an'  he's  got  more 
cold.  I  dun  know  what's  goin'  to  be  done.  I  don't  see 
how  I  can  get  him  home  to-night." 

"  He  can  stay  here  just  as  well  as  not,"  said  Sarah,  nudg 
ing  her  husband  again. 

"  Well,  I'll  come  over  an'  git  him  home  in  the  rnornin'," 
Malvina  said. 

But  she  could  not  get  him  home  when  she  came  over  in 
the  morning.  Old  Barney  never  went  home  again.  He 
died  the  second  day  after  he  came  to  Sarah's.  Both  of  his 
daughters  came  to  see  him,  and  did  what  they  could,  but  he 
did  not  seem  to  notice  them  much.  An  hour  before  he  died 
he  called  Sarah.  She  ran  into  the  room.  Just  then  there 
was  nobody  else  in  the  house.  Old  Barney  sat  up  in  bed, 
and  he  was  pointing  out  of  the  window  over  the  meadow. 
His  pointing  forefinger  shook,  his  face  was  ghastly,  but  there 
was  a  strange,  childish  delight  in  it. 

"  Look  a-there,  Sary — jest  look  a-there,"  said  old  Barney. 
"  Over  in  the  meader — look.  There's  Ellen  a-comin',  an' 
Viny,  an'  they  look  jest  as  they  did  when  they  was  young ; 
an'  Ellen  she's  a-bringin'  me  some  tea,  an'  Viny  she's 
a-bringin'  me  some  custard  puddin'.  An'  there's  Willy 
a-dancirf  along.  Jest  see  the  leetle  fellar  a-comin'  to  see 
gran'pa  all  of  his  own  accord.  An'  there's  Annie  all  in  her 
white  dress,  jest  as  pretty  as  a  pictur',  a-comin'  arter  her 
breastpin.  Jest  see  'em,  Sary."  The  old  man  laughed. 
Out  of  his  ghastly,  death-stricken  features  shone  the  ex 
pression  of  a  happy  child.  "Jest  look  at  'em,  Sary,"  he 

Sarah  looked,  and  she  saw  only  the  meadow  covered  with 
a  short  waving  crop  of  golden-rod,  and  over  it  the  Septem 
ber  sky. 


AMANDA  sewed  with  a  diligence  which  seemed  almost 
fierce.  She  jerked  out  her  right  elbow  at  sharp  angles,  and 
the  stout  thread  made  a  rasping  sound.  She  was  making 
a  braided  rug,  which  lay  stiff  and  heavy  over  her  knees. 
Love  sat  at  the  other  front  window.  She  held  some  white 
crotchet-work,  but  she  kept  looking  away  from  it  out  of  the 
window.  The  cherry-tree  and  the  rose-bushes  in  the  yard 
were  bowing  in  a  light  wind.  There  were  no  leaves  on 
them,  but  it  was  near  spring,  and  the  twigs  had  a  red  glis 
ten  as  they  moved  in  the  wind. 

Now  and  then  Amanda's  pale  eyes  shot  a  swift,  steady 
glance  at  Love.  "  You  won't  get  that  tidy  done  to-night  if 
you  keep  lookin'  out  of  the  window,"  she  remarked  presently. 

Love  started,  and  colored  softly.  "I'm  goin'  to  work 
on  it,"  said  she.  Then  she  crocheted  steadily,  and  did 
not  look  away  from  her  work  for  a  long  time.  Love  would 
have  been  pretty  had  not  her  features  been  too  thin  and 
sharply  accentuated.  She  was  like  a  too  boldly  traced 
pencil  sketch  ;  the  beauty  of  design  could  not  show  through 
such  force  of  outline.  Her  hair  was  too  heavy  for  her  deli 
cate  little  head.  It  was  not  very  tidy ;  when  she  bent  her 
head  over  her  crochet-work  the  great  slipping  knot  showed 
more  plainly. 


"  It  does  seem  as  if  you  might  twist  up  your  hair  a  little 
tighter  :  it  don't  look  neat,"  said  Amanda. 

*'  I  can't  make  it  stay  up  anyhow,"  returned  Love,  with 
meek  apology. 

"  I  guess  I  could  make  it  stay  up." 

Amanda's  light  hair  was  parted  and  brushed  so  smoothly 
that  there  were  lines  of  pale  gloss  on  the  sides  of  her  head  j 
the  small  knot  at  the  back  of  it  was  compact  and  immova 
ble  as  one  on  a  statue. 

After  a  while  Amanda  arose.  "  I'm  goin'  out  to  take  in 
the  clothes,"  said  she.  "  I  guess  they  must  be  dry  by  this 
time.  I  ain't  goin'  to  have  'em  beatin'  in  this  wind  any 
longer,  anyhow." 

"  I'll  go,"  said  Love. 

"  No ;  you  stay  jest  where  you  are,  an'  do  your  tidy. 
You've  got  some  cold,  an'  I  ain't  goin'  to  have  you  out  in 
the  wind  handlin'  damp  clothes." 

When  Amanda's  tall,  slim  figure  erected  itself  and  moved 
across  the  room,  it  had  a  kind  of  stiff  majesty  about  it.  Her 
back  and  neck  were  absolutely  unbending,  there  was  one 
unbroken  line  from  her  head  to  her  heels,  even  her  dress 
skirt  did  not  swing,  but  hung  rigidly. 

As  soon  as  Amanda  had  gone,  Love  let  her  work  fall  in 
her  lap,  leaned  her  head  back,  and  looked  out  of  the  win 
dow  again.  There  was  the  little  front  yard,  with  its  green- 
gray  mat  of  grass  and  glistening  tree  and  bushes ;  before 
it  stretched  the  road ;  once  in  a  while  a  team  passed,  or  a 
woman  pushed  by  with  her  garments  flying  back  in  the  wind. 
Love,  looking  directly  at  it  all,  saw  nothing.  She  had  come 
to  a  place  in  her  life  where  the  future  closed  around  her  so 
plainly  that,  whether  she  would  or  not,  she  could  see  noth 
ing  else.  Possibilities  seemed  near  enough  to  sing  in  her 


ears,  and  all  her  dreams  were  turned  to  giants.  No  one 
but  herself  could  see  them ;  she  was  innocently  ashamed 
and  terrified  to  look ;  but  no  work  and  no  play  could  di 
vert  her  eyes. 

When  Love  heard  her  sister  coming  back,  she  took  up 
her  work  hurriedly,  and  began  to  crochet.  Her  little  thin 
face  looked  quite  sober  and  intent ;  she  did  not  even  glance 
at  her  sister  when  she  entered.  Amanda's  face  was  red 
dened  by  the  wind,  but  her  hair  was  not  roughened.  She 
held  her  chilly  fingers  over  the  stove,  and  looked  at  Love. 

"  Got  the  tidy  'most  done  ?"  she  asked. 

"  Pretty  near." 

"  Coin'  to  get  it  done  to-night  ?" 

"  I  don't  know  as  I  can  get  it  quite  done.  The  last  rows 
take  longer,  you  know." 

Amanda  went  suddenly  across  to  Love.  "  Let  me  see 
it,"  said  she. 

Love  extended  the  tidy  nervously.  Amanda  scruti 
nized  it. 

"  Now  I  want  to  know  jest  how  much  you've  worked  on 
this  since  I  went  out." 

"  I  don't  know  as  I  can  tell,  Mandy." 

"  You  can  tell  pretty  near.     Have  you  done  half  a  row  ?" 

"  I— don't  know  as  I  have." 

"  Have  you  done  quarter  of  one  ?" 

"  I  guess  not  quite." 

"  Have  you  done  anything  at  all  ?" 

"  Yes,  I've  done  a  little." 

"  I  don't  believe  you've  made  more'n  three  shells.  Have 

Love  looked  shamefacedly  at  the  tidy,  and  made  no  reply. 

"You'd  ought  to  be  ashamed  of  yourself,"  said  Amanda. 


*  It's  much  as  ever  you  do  anything  at  all  lately.  I  don't 
see  what  you  think  you're  comin'  to,  sittin'  all  day  doin' 
nothin'  at  all,  starin'  out  of  the  window.  You  act  as  if  you 
was  in  a  brown  study.  I'd  like  to  know  what  ails  you." 

Love  murmured  something,  and  twisted  herself  away  tow 
ards  the  window.  Amanda  surveyed  her  imperturbably ; 
her  words  had  been  impatient,  but  her  manner  of  delivery 
calm.  She  stood  over  her  sister  implacably  benignant,  like 
an  embodied  duty. 

"  Now,  Love,  I  want  to  know — an'  I  think  you'd  ought 
to  tell  me — what  are  you  thinkin'  about  when  you  set  doin' 
nothin'  so  ?" 

Love  quivered.  Secret  thoughts  have  more  sensitive 
surfaces  than  burns,  and  it  seemed  to  Love  that  hers  were 
laid  bare.  "  Don't,  Mandy.  I  don't  know,"  she  faltered. 

"  If  you  are  thinkin'  about  what  I  think  you  are,"  Aman 
da  went  on,  inexorably,  "  it's  about  time  you  stopped.  If 
you've  got  any  proper  pride  that  a  girl  ought  to  have,  you 
won't  waste  time  thinkin'  about  anybody  till  you're  pretty 
sure  they  want  you  to." 

Love  turned  on  her  sister  with  a  look  as  if  she  were  feel 
ing  for  the  claws  which  nature  had  denied  her.  "  I  never 
said  I  was  thinkin'  about  anybody,"  said  she.  Then  she 
suddenly  put  her  hands  up  to  her  face  and  began  to  cry. 

"  There's  nothin'  for  you  to  cry  about,"  said  Amanda, 
"  nor  to  get  mad  about.  I'm  older  than  you,  an'  I  know 
more  about  the  world,  an'  I'm  goin'  to  look  out  for  you  as 
faithful  as  I  know  how,  an'  that's  all  there  is  about  it.  Now 
you'd  better  work  on  that  tidy  if  you  ever  want  to  get  it 
done,  while  I  get  supper  ready." 

Amanda,  as  she  went  out  of  the  room,  had  a  look  of  de 
fiant  embarrassment,  and  her  face  was  flushed.  She  had 


not  flinched,  but  she  was  a  New  England  woman,  and  she 
discussed  all  topics  except  purely  material  ones  shame 
facedly  with  her  sister.  She  felt  as  if  she  had  injured  her 
own  delicacy  as  well  as  her  sister's. 

Amanda,  out  in  the  kitchen,  got  supper,  and  Love,  in  the 
sitting-room,  wiped  her  eyes  and  worked  on  her  tidy.  It 
was  really  necessary  it  should  be  finished ;  she  was  going 
to  sell  it,  and  she  needed  the  money.  The  proceeds  of 
Love's  little  mats  and  tidies  and  pincushions  all  went  for 
her  own  clothes,  while  Amanda's  heavier  and  homelier 
work  bought  the  food,  fuel,  and  her  own  scanty  wardrobe. 
Love  had  many  a  dainty  little  feature  in  her  attire  which 
Amanda  had  not,  and  never  fairly  knew  that  she  had  not. 
Love's  little  beribboned  gowns  and  flower-wreathed  hats 
were  to  Amanda  as  her  own.  She  never  thought  of  herself 
as  being  without  them.  Love  on  a  Sunday,  in  her  pretty, 
best  attire,  was,  in  a  sweet  and  subtle  fashion,  Amanda's 
looking-glass.  The  elder  sister,  in  her  sober  shawl  and 
staid  bonnet,  walking  beside  her  to  meeting,  saw  all  the 
time  herself  in  this  younger  and  fairer  guise. 

Amanda  was  old  enough  to  be  Love's  mother ;  the  two 
had  been  left  alone  in  the  world  when  Love  was  a  baby. 
They  had  only  their  little  house  and  an  acre  or  two  of  land, 
but  Amanda  had  the  head  of  a  financier.  She  had  man 
aged  her  pennies  as  firmly  and  carefully  as  dollars.  She 
made  every  inch  of  their  land  pay.  She  sold  hay  and  vege 
tables.  She  did  heavy  tasks  in  needlework  for  the  neigh 
bors — quilts  and  braided  rugs  and  rag  carpets.  She  had 
a  little  sum  at  interest  in  the  savings-bank. 

While  adhering  to  the  letter  of  her  principles  in  bringing 
up  Love,  Amanda  had  spared  her  in  every  possible  way. 
No  rough  tasks  had  been  imposed  upon  this  little,  slender- 


armed  sister.  Amanda  bought  pretty  silks  and  wools  and 
fine  threads,  and  had  her  taught  to  do  dainty  fancy-work, 
for  which  she  found  quite  a  market  among  the  village  women 
and  the  storekeepers  in  a  neighboring  large  town.  There 
were  always  finished  articles  on  exhibition  in  the  sisters7 
little  front  room,  which  was  a  studio  on  an  exceedingly 
small  and  humble  scale.  Love's  delicately  wrought  tidies 
and  scarfs  decorated  the  walls  on  all  sides ;  the  table  was 
covered  with  mats  and  pin-cushions.  Nothing  could  ex 
ceed  Amanda's  pride  in  the  display-  Love  had  lately  fin 
ished  a  silk  patchwork  bedquilt,  which  was  draped  over  the 
mantelshelf  like  a  triumphal  banner.  Amanda  invited  peo 
ple  in  to  see  it.  She  believed  it  a  work  of  genius. 

Love  crocheted  fast  when  she  kept  herself  to  it.  There 
was  quite  a  piece  done  on  the  tidy  when  Amanda  called 
her  out  to  supper.  Amanda  had  made  some  milk  toast. 
Love  was  very  fond  of  it.  The  two  ate  their  suppers  peace 
fully  in  the  little  kitchen.  Amanda  gave  Love  the  lower 
most  and  best-soaked  slices  of  toast,  and  Love,  whose  eyes 
were  still  red,  ate  them  meekly. 

After  supper,  when  the  dishes  were  cleared  away,  it  was 
quite  dark.  Love  lighted  a  lamp,  and  started  to  go  up-stairs 
to  her  chamber. 

"  Where  you  goin'  ?"  asked  Amanda. 
"  Up  stairs." 
"What  for?" 

"  I— thought  maybe  I'd— better  change  my  dress." 
"  What  are  you  goin'  to  change  your  dress  for  ?" 
"  I — didn't  know  but — somebody  might  come  in." 
"  I'd  like  to  know  who's  goin'  to  come  that  that  brown 
dress  you've  got  on-  ain't  good  enough  for  ?    Who  do  you 
expect  ?" 


"  I — don't  know  as  I  expect  anybody." 

"  I  s'pose  you  think  maybe  M\\  be  in." 

"  I  don't  know  as  anybody'll  come.  I  just  thought — I'd 
change  my  dress."  Love,  slight  and  flat-chested,  her  shoul 
der-blades  showing  through  the  back  of  her  brown  dress, 
stood  before  Amanda.  She  held  the  lamp  unsteadily  in 
both  her  little  bony  hands. 

"  That  dress  is  plenty  good  enough  whoever  comes.  I 
don't  care  if  it's  the  President,"  said  Amanda.  "An'  I 
can  tell  you  one  thing — if  you've  got  any  pride,  an'  any 
sense  of  what's  proper,  you  won't  go  to  dressin'  up  in  that 
blue  dress  with  all  that  velvet  trimmin'  on  it,  if  you  think 
anybody's  comin'.  If  you  really  want  to  show  anybody  you 
like  them  before  you  know  whether  he  likes  you  or  not,  you 
can  go  an'  dress  up  for  them.  If  anybody's  got  common- 
sense,  they  can  read  it  just  like  ABC.  You'd  better  go 
an'  set  down  an'  finish  that  tidy." 

Love  obeyed.  She  seated  herself  at  the  parlor  table  with 
her  crochet-work.  Once,  when  her  sister  was  out  of  the 
room  for  a  moment,  she  got  up  stealthily  and  looked  at  her 
self  in  the  glass  behind  the  table.  She  smoothed  back  her 
hair  as  well  as  she  could,  and  adjusted  the  little  brooch  at 
her  throat.  Then  she  darted  swiftly  and  noiselessly  across 
the  room  to  the  chimney  cupboard.  A  little  bottle  of  co 
logne  stood  on  the  middle  shelf.  Love  sprinkled  some  on 
her  handkerchief;  then  she  flew  back  to  her  chair.  She 
hardly  gained  it  before  Amanda  entered,  and  almost  at  the 
same  moment  there  was  a  knock  on  the  front  door.  Love 
gave  a  great  start,  and  half  arose.  Amanda  looked  at 

"  I'll  go,"  said  she,  sternly.     Love  sat  down. 

Amanda  had  reached  the  sitting  room  door,  when  she 

AMANDA    AND  LOVE.  295 

turned  around  and  sniffed  sharply.  "  What's  that  I  smell  ?" 
said  she. 

Love  said  nothing. 

"  Have  you  been  puttin'  some  of  that  cologne  on  your 

"  A  little." 

"You're  a  silly  girl." 

Love  crocheted  with  her  heart  beating  loudly,  while  her 
sister  opened  the  front  door  and  let  in  the  visitor.  She 
could  hear  Amanda's  voice  and  a  subdued  masculine  one. 
Amanda  was  asking  the  visitor  to  lay  aside  his  hat  and  coat 
in  very  much  the  same  way  that  she  might  have  asked  an 
enemy  to  lay  down  his  arms. 

Amanda  preceded  a  young  man  into  the  sitting-room. 
She  set  the  lamp  on  the  shelf  and  blew  it  out.  Love  half 
arose.  She  and  the  young  man  looked  at  each  other;  they 
extended  their  hands,  then  drew  them  back.  Love  sank 
into  her  chair  with  a  soft,  bashful  titter,  and  the  young  man 
sat  gravely  and  stiffly  down  on  the  sofa.  Amanda  seated 
herself  at  the  table  with  her  braided  rug.  She  got  it  in 
place,  and  began  sewing. 

"  How's  your  mother  ?"  she  asked  the  young  man,  in  a 
dry,  constrained  voice. 

"  She's  pretty  well,  thank  you,"  he  replied. 

He  was  young  and  very  tall.  His  feet,  in  their  well- 
blacked  shoes,  sprawled  far  out  from  the  sofa.  His  hand 
some  face  was  red  with  embarrassment,  but  his  blue  eyes 
looked  at  Amanda  quite  sturdily  and  steadily. 

"  Has  she  begun  on  her  cleanin'  yet  ?"  said  Amanda. 

"  No,  ma'am  ;  I  guess  not." 

"  I  s'pose  you  can  help  her  some  about  the  carpets." 

"  Yes,  ma'am." 


Amanda  sewed,  and  Love  crocheted  on  her  tidy.  The 
young  man  drew  his  feet  farther  in. 

"  It's  a  pleasant  evening  out,"  he  remarked,  after  a  while. 

Amanda  nodded,  with  cold  acquiescence. 

"  Yes,  I  s'pose  'tis,"  said  she.  Love  smiled  softly,  with 
out  looking  up. 

There  was  a  long  silence.  The  sisters  worked  steadily. 
The  visitor  sat  on  the  sofa,  with  his  unoccupied  masculine 
hands  on  his  knees.  Now  and  then  he  glanced  at  Love's 
bowed  head.  There  was  a  calla-lily  in  a  big  pot  behind 
her,  and  the  broad  leaves  threw  shadows  over  her.  Love 
herself  looked  like  a  flower  which  for  some  reason  was  nof 
giving  out  its  natural  fragrance.  It  seemed  as  if  she  needed 
to  be  stirred  and  shaken. 

The  time  went  on.  Once  in  a  while  Amanda  vouchsafed 
an  abrupt  question,  and  the  young  man  replied.  Love  never 
spoke  until  he  arose  to  take  leave.  Then  she  started  and 
looked  up. 

"  It  ain't  late,"  said  she,  and  the  blushes  flamed  over  her 

"  I  guess  I  must  be  goin',"  said  he.  There  was  some 
thing  pitiful  about  the  young  fellow,  in  his  Sunday  suit  and 
light  necktie,  with  his  shiny  shoes  and  curly  hair  dampened 
and  brushed  as  smoothly  as  possible.  All  these  little  hum 
ble  masculine  furbishings  had  gone  for  naught,  and  he  was 
going  home  disappointed  and  hurt  after  a  painfully  dull 
evening.  However,  he  held  up  his  head  like  a  man,  and 
there  was  a  stiffness  in  his  way  of  taking  leave  which  be 
tokened  resentment  as  well  as  dejection. 

Amanda  went  to  the  door  with  him,  and  watched  him  put 
on  his  coat  and  hat.  "Remember  me  to  your  mother/1 
said  she,  when  he  went  out. 


When  Amanda  returned  to  the  sitting-room,  Love  had 
her  head  bent  very  low  over  her  work. 

"You  hadn't  ought  to  have  said  it  wa'n't  late  when  he 
got  up  to  go,"  said  Amanda.  "  It  looked  dreadful  forward, 
as  if  you  wanted  him  to  stay  whether  or  no.  I  was  sur 
prised  at  you." 

Love  put  her  hands  over  her  face,  and  her  shoulders 

"  What  is  the  matter?"  asked  Amanda. 

"  I  don't  believe  he'll — ever — come  again  as  long  as  he 

"I'd  like  to  know  why  he  won't  come?" 

Love  made  no  reply.     She  sobbed  convulsively. 

"  Come,  you'd  better  go  to  bed,"  said  Amanda.  "  You're 
actin'  dreadful  silly.  Ain't  you  got  any  pride  at  all?  I 
guess  before  I'd  sit  and  cry  because  I  was  afraid  a  fellow 
wouldn't  come  to  see  me —  An'  he'll  come  again  fast 
enough.  I'll  go  an'  heat  a  flat-iron  to  put  to  your  feet. 
It'll  be  kind  of  chilly  up-stairs  to-night." 

Amanda  got  Love  into  bed  with  the  hot  flat-iron  at  her 
feet,  and  herself  lay  half  the  night  listening  to  hear  if  she 
were  awake  crying.  The  sisters  slept  in  the  two  cottage 
chambers ;  Love  had  the  large  sunny  front  one.  There 
were  muslin  curtains  at  Love's  windows ;  she  had  a  clean, 
faded  woollen  carpet,  a  large  looking-glass  over  her  bureau, 
and  the  best  feather-bed.  Amanda's  little  room  was  as 
bare  and  poor  as  could  well  be,  her  tiny  looking-glass  was 
blurred,  and  her  bed  was  hard  and  lumpy. 

If  Love  lay  awake  weeping,  she  wept  so  softly  that  her 
sister  did  not  hear  her.  This  was  a  Wednesday  night. 
Love's  admirer  had  been  calling  upon  her  occasionally  on 
Wednesday  evenings  for  some  time.  The  next  Wednesday 


evening  he  did  not  come,  nor  the  next,  nor  the  next.  The 
sisters  said  nothing  to  each  other  about  it.  Love  did  not 
attempt  to  change  her  dress  and  make  herself  smart  for 
him  again.  Her  fancy-work  dragged  more  than  ever,  but 
she  always  tried  to  be  industrious  when  Amanda  was  in  the 
room.  One  afternoon  a  neighbor  called  and  asked  Aman 
da  out  in  the  entry,  when  she  was  taking  leave,  If  her  sis 
ter  was  well. 

"  She  always  did  look  dreadful  delicate,"  said  she, "  but 
now  she  looks  to  me  as  if  you  could  see  the  light  through 
her  if  you  held  her  the  right  way.  I  should  think  you'd 
better  get  her  something  strength'nin'  to  take,  Amanda. 
You  know  her  mother  died  of  the  consumption." 

"  I  guess  she's  well  enough,"  returned  Amanda,  shortly. 
"  She's  always  thin  as  a  rail." 

But  when  she  went  back  into  the  sitting-room  she  saw 
Love  with  the  neighbor's  eyes ;  before,  she  had  seen  her 
with  her  own,  to  which  her  desires  had  been  like  soft-hued 
spectacles.  That  night  she  tried  to  get  something  for  sup 
per  that  Love  would  relish,  but  the  girl  scarcely  tasted  it. 
She  only  pecked  at  it  like  a  little  thin  bird.  Amanda  made 
up  her  mind  to  get  some  medicine  for  her,  as  the  neighbor 
had  advised,  and  the  next  day  she  did,  and  Love  took  it, 
with  no  perceptible  effect. 

Five  weeks  from  the  Wednesday  on  which  the  young  man 
had  called,  Amanda  heard  that  he  had  procured  some  work 
in  another  village,  and  left  town.  She  hesitated  whether 
or  not  to  tell  Love.  Finally  she  decided  to.  Love  had 
just  lighted  her  lamp  to  go  to  bed  one  night  when  she  told 

"  They  say  he's  left  town  an'  gone  to  Sharon,"  said  she, 
in  a  harsh,  constrained  voice. 

AMANDA   AND  LOVE.  2<)<) 

Love  did  not  make  a  sound,  but  her  face  moved  as  if  she 
screamed.  She  went  weakly  up-stairs  with  her  lamp,  and 
Amanda  sat  down  in  the  parlor  and  thought.  It  was  mid 
night  before  she  went  up-stairs. 

She  listened  a  minute  at  Love's  door,  then  she  tiptoed  in 
and  bent  over  her.  Love  was  asleep ;  her  little  face  had  a 
peaceful  look,  but  her  skin  was  dank  and  pale  with  perspi 
ration  ;  great  beads  stood  on  her  forehead. 

"That's  the  way  mother  used  to  look  when  she  was 
asleep,"  Amanda  said  to  herself. 

Suddenly  Love  opened  her  eyes.  She  did  not  seem 
startled,  but  she  turned  away  from  Amanda  and  the  light. 

"  Now,  Love,  I  want  to  know  what  all  this  means,"  said 
Amanda.  "  Are  you  frettin'  yourself  sick  because  that  fel 
low  don't  come  ?" 

Love  did  not  reply  j  her  face  was  hidden,  but  her  slender 
shoulders  heaved  convulsively. 

"  Well,"  said  Amanda,  slowly,  "  it  beats  all.  I've  heard 
of  such  things,  but  I  never  knew  they  were  true."  She 
smoothed  out  the  bedclothes  over  Love  and  straightened 
her  pillow.  "  Now  you'd  better  stop  cryin',  an'  go  to  sleep," 
said  she.  "  He'll  come  again  fast  enough,  don't  you  worry." 

Amanda  went  out  with  the  light.  She  did  not  sleep  at 
all  that  night.  She  lay  in  her  little  chamber  and  wrestled 
for  another  with  a  problem  of  nature  which  she  had  never 
had  to  face  for  herself. 

The  next  day  was  Saturday.  In  the  afternoon  Amanda 
dressed  herself  to  go  out.  "  I'm  goin'  out  a  little  ways,  it's 
so  pleasant,"  she  told  Love,  when  she  went  into  the  sitting- 
room  with  her  bonnet  and  shawl  on. 

Love  smiled  listlessly.  She  was  at  the  window  with  her 
fancy-work  as  usual.  Amanda  glanced  back  as  she  went 


down  the  path  to  the  front  gate,  but  Love  did  not  look  after 
her ;  her  head  was  bent  over  her  work. 

Amanda  went  down  the  road  until  she  reached  a  large 
white  cottage  set  in  a  deep  yard.  There  were  four  front 
windows.  Amanda  saw  a  head  at  one  of  them,  but  it  dis 
appeared  when  she  turned  in  at  the  gate.  She  drew  her 
old  cashmere  shawl  tightly  over  her  shoulders,  and  went, 
slim  and  stately,  up  the  front  walk.  There  was  a  strong 
sweet  odor  of  pine-apple  in  the  air;  it  came  from  an  odd 
brown  flowering  bush  near  the  gate.  It  might  have  been 
gunpowder,  and  Amanda  might  have  been  marching  up  to 
hostile  guns,  from  her  feelings.  She  felt  a  pair  of  inimical 
female  eyes  upon  her  behind  a  closed  blind,  but  she  set  her 
face  steadily  ahead,  went  up  to  the  door,  and  knocked. 

She  waited  a  long  time,  but  no  one  came.  She  knocked 
again  and  again.  Finally  she  compressed  her  lips  and 
tried  the  door.  It  was  not  locked.  She  went  into  the  en 
try,  and  knocked  on  the  sitting-room  door.  No  one  came. 
She  opened  the  door  and  walked  in.  Directly  the  opposite 
door  closed  with  a  bang.  Amanda  walked  across  to  that 
door  and  opened  it.  There  stood  an  elderly  woman  in  a 
little  entry  between  the  sitting-room  and  kitchen.  She 
looked  at  Amanda  with  a  kind  of  defiant  embarrassment. 
Her  handsome  fleshy  face  was  quite  red. 

"  Good-afternoon,  Mis'  Dale,"  said  Amanda. 

"  Good-afternoon." 

There  was  a  pause.  "  I  want  to  speak  to  you  a  minute," 
said  Amanda. 

"  Well,  come  into  the  sitting-room." 

Amanda  began  at  once  when  she  and  Mrs.  Dale  were 
seated  opposite  each  other.  "  I  wanted  to  ask  you,"  said 
she,  "  how  your  son  was." 



"  He's  well  as  common." 

"  I  heard  he'd  left  town." 

"Yes,  he  has." 

"  Does  he  ever  come  home  ?" 

"  Sometimes." 

"  Well,  some  time  when  he  does  come,  I  should  be  hap 
py  to  have  him  call  at  our  house." 

Mrs.  Dale's  face  grew  redder,  her  round  eyes  gave  out  a 
blue  glare.  "  Well,  I'll  tell  you  one  thing  right  to  your  face, 
Amandy  Perry,  an'  I  ain't  afraid  to  neither.  My  son  ain't 
comin'  over  to  your  house  again  to  be  snubbed,  not  if  I  can 
help  it.  I  guess  he's  full  as  good  as  your  sister— full  as 

"  It  wa'n't  that,  Mis'  Dale." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  it  was,  then." 

"  I  rather  guess  I  talked  to  Love,  an'  said  some  things 
that  made  her  act  kind  of  bashful.  I  ain't  never  had  a 
thing  against  your  son.  I've  always  thought  he  was  one 
of  the  likeliest  young  men  in  town." 

"  I  ruther  guess  my  son  is  full  as  good  as  anybody  that 
little  meachin'  thing  is  likely  to  get— full  as  good.  I  don't 
know  what  you  think  you  are,  nor  where  you  come  from : 
folks  that  have  had  to  live  from  hand  to  mouth  the  way 
you  have,  an'  never  have  had  any  parlor.  My  folks  have 
always  had  parlors  an'  sittin'-rooms,  an'  I  guess  some  of 'em 
would  have  thought  my  son  was  stoopin'  if  they'd  known." 

The  channel  in  which  Mrs.  Dale's  ideas  ran  was  so  nar 
row  that  it  had  to  be  well  cleared  of  one  set  before  others 
could  enter.  She  was  a  kindly  enough  woman,  but  just 
now  she  was  possessed  of  maternal  resentment  to  the  ex 
clusion  of  everything  else.  Mrs.  Dale  was  like  an  enraged 
mother  bird  with  one  note,  she  screamed  it  over  and  over  in 


Amanda's  ears  in  spite  of  all  she  could  say.  Finally  Aman 
da  arose  to  go,  and  Mrs.  Dale  followed  her  to  the  door,  still 
talking.  Amanda  noticed  a  hat  on  the  entry  table.  "  He's 
come  home  to  spend  Sunday,"  she  thought,  but  she  said 

Mrs.  Dale  closed  the  door  after  her  with  a  bang,  and 
Amanda  went  slowly  down  the  path,  looking  on  either  hand. 
Over  in  the  field  south  of  the  house  there  was  a  low  red  fire 
leaping  in  the  dry  grass,  and  a  man's  figure  moving  about, 
knee-deep  in  curling  smoke.  Amanda  went  straight  across 
to  the  field  and  up  to  the  man.  She  held  her  skirts  close 
around  her,  and  stepped  unflinchingly  over  the  blackened 

"  Good- afternoon,  Willis,"  said  she. 

"  Good-afternoon,"  the  young  man  returned,  stiffly. 

"  Come  to  spend  Sunday  ?" 

"Yes,  ma'am." 

"  Why  don't  you  come  over  and  see  us  ?  You  ain't  been 
for  a  long  time." 

Willis  stood  straight  and  tall  before  Amanda ;  his  eyes 
looked  like  his  mother's.  "  Because  I  ain't  goin'  anywhere 
where  I'm  shown  so  plain  I  ain't  wanted,"  said  he. 

"  You're  wanted  enough.  We  should  be  real  glad  to  see 
you  any  time.  I  s'pose  I'm  kind  of  stiff  sometimes,  but  I 
don't  mean  to  be ;  an'  Love  is  a  little  quiet  an'  bashful,  but 
you  mustn't  think  we  mean  to  act  offish.  If  you  ain't  goin' 
anywheres  to-morrow  night,  we'd  be  glad  to  see  you.  Love, 
she  ain't  very  well." 

Willis  moved  around  and  beat  a  little  at  the  burning  grass. 

"  Love,  she  ain't  very  well,  an'  I  guess  she's  kind  of  fret- 
tin'  because  she  thinks  you're  put  out,"  said  Amanda,  in  a 
pitiful  voice. 

AMANDA   AND   LOVE.  303 

"Well,  maybe  I'll  come  if  you'd  like  to  have  me,"  said 
Willis,  hesitatingly. 

"We'll  be  happy  to  have  you."  Amanda  started  off; 
then  she  turned.  "  What — are  you  going  to  do  to-night  ?" 
she  asked,  timidly. 


"  Yes." 

"  Nothing  particular  that  I  know  off." 

"  Can't  you  come  to-night?" 

"  I — don't  know  but  I  can,"  Willis  said,  in  a  bewildered 

Amanda  went  home  in  the  early  spring  afternoon.  Her 
limbs  trembled  ;  her  face  had  a  shocked,  desperate  expres 
sion.  She  was  full  of  a  solemn  shame  and  terror  at  what 
she  had  done.  People  when  they  overstep  their  bounds  of 
conduct  are  apt  to  step  high  and  wide ;  poor  Amanda  had 
cleared  hers  well.  The  frogs  were  singing  in  a  stretch  of 
low  meadow-land  that  she  passed.  They  would  have  seemed 
to  her  like  the  chorus  of  a  Greek  tragedy  had  she  ever 
heard  of  one. 

When  she  got  home  she  sat  down  with  Love  and  sewed 
until  supper-time.  She  said  nothing  about  Willis  Dale. 
She  got  supper  early,  and  cleared  it  away.  Then  she  got 
a  brush  and  comb  and  basin  of  water,  and  called  Love 
out  into  the  kitchen.  "  Come  here  a  minute,  Love,"  said 

Love  crept  out  obediently. 

"  I'm  goin'  to  see  if  I  can't  make  your  hair  look  neat  for 
once,"  said  Amanda,  in  a  resolute  tone. 

She  dampened  Love's  pretty  wild  hair,  brushed  it  ener 
getically,  and  twisted  it  tight  and  hard  on  the  top  of  her 
head.  Love's  thin  childish  face  looked  strange  and  severe 


with  her  hair  in  flat  dark  curves  around  her  temples.  Aman 
da  surveyed  her  approvingly, 

"  There,"  said  she.  "  Now  you'd  better  go  an'  put  on 
your  other  dress ;  I  want  to  fix  that  place  that's  ripped  in 
this  one." 

"  I  thought  I'd  go  to  bed  pretty  soon,"  said  Love. 

"  No,  you  ain't  goin'  to  bed,  neither.  Now  go  an?  put  on 
your  dress.  You  look  nice  an'  neat  for  once  in  your  life." 

Willis  came  at  eight  o'clock.  Amanda  let  him  in,  and 
left  him  with  Love  in  the  sitting-room.  She  herself  sat 
down  at  the  kitchen  window  in  the  deepening  dusk,  and 
stared  out  over  the  shadowy  fields.  She  could  hear  the 
voices  of  her  sister  and  her  lover,  now  fairly  started  upon 
that  path  of  love  which  was  as  strange  to  this  rigid-lived 
single  woman  as  that  of  death,  and  whither  she  was  far  less 
able  to  follow.  Amanda  sat  there,  and  wept  patiently,  lean 
ing  her  head  against  the  window-casing. 


"  WE  can,  Mis'  Rowe  j  this  winder  ain't  fastened.  I  can 
slide  it  up  easy  'nough." 

"  Where  does  it  go  to  ?" 

"  Into  the  kitchen.  I  declare,  there's  the  tea-kittle  on  the 
stove  ;  an'  I  should  think  the  door  was  open  into  the  butt'ry. 
Yes,  'tis.  Mis'  Rowe,  the  dishes  are  settin'  on  the  shelves 
jest  the  way  they  were  left." 

"  Can  you  see  'em  ?" 

"  Yes,  I  can.  I  don't  b'lieve  there's  one  speck  of  harm 
in  our  gettin'  in  an'  lookin'  round  a  little." 

"  Oh,  Mis'  Daggett,  do  you  think  we'd  ought  to  ?" 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  harm  'twould  do.'* 

"  S'pose  they  should  find  it  out  ?" 

"  I  don't  see  who  they  is.  There  ain't  one  of  the  Prim 
roses  left  but  Maria,  an'  it  ain't  likely  she'll  be  round  here 
to  find  it  out  very  soon." 

" It's  awful  'bout  her,  ain't  it?" 

"I  dun  know  as  I  think  it's  very  awful  j  it  ain't  any 
more  than  she  deserves  for  treatin'  Abel  Rice  the  way  she 

"  I've  heard  her  husband  had  spent  'most  all  her  money." 

"  Guess  it's  true  'nough.    They  said  once  she  was  goin' 
to  leave  him." 


"  I  never  really  believed  he  struck  her  the  way  they  said 
he  did  ;  did  you  ?" 

"Guess  it's  true  'nough.  I  tell  you  what  it  is,  Mis'  Rowe, 
I  b'lieve  folks  get  their  desarts  in  this  world  sometimes. — 
We  can  get  in  here  jest  as  easy  as  not,  if  we  are  a  mind  to." 

"  Oh,  Mis'  Daggett,  I  dun  know  'bout  it." 

"  There  ain't  a  bit  of  harm  in't,"  said  Mrs.  Daggett,  who 
was  long  and  vigorous  and  sinewy.  Then  with  no  more  ado 
she  pushed  up  the  grating  old  window. 

Mrs.  Rowe,  who  was  a  delicate  little  body,  stood  timor 
ously  aloof  in  a  bed  of  mint  that  had  grown  up  around  the 
kitchen  door  of  the  old  Primrose  house.  There  was  a  small 
wilderness  of  mint  and  sweetbrier  and  low  pink-flowering 
mallow  around  the  door.  All  the  old  foot-tracks  were  con 
cealed  by  them. 

The  window  was  not  very  high ;  Mrs.  Daggett  put  one 
knee  on  the  sill  and  climbed  in  easily  enough.  Mrs.  Rowe 
watched  her  with  dilated  eyes ;  occasionally  she  peered  be 
hind  her;  she  had  a  sideway  poise  like  a  deer.  It  was 
perfectly  evident  that  if  she  were  to  see  any  one  approach 
ing  she  would  fly  and  leave  her  companion  to  her  fate. 

"  Come,  you  get  in  now,"  said  Mrs.  Daggett.  Her  harsh, 
yellow  old  face  peered  out  of  the  window ;  back  of  it  was  a 
dark  green  gloom.  All  the  windows  but  that  were  closed 
and  blinded. 

"  Oh,  Mis'  Daggett,  I  dun  know  as  I  darse  to  !" 

"  Come  along !" 

"  I  don't  b'lieve  I  can  get  in." 

"  Yes,  you  can  ;  it  ain't  high." 

Mrs.  Rowe  approached  slowly ;  she  lifted  one  feeble  knee. 
"  It's  no  use,  I  can't  noway,"  said  she. 

Mrs.  Daggett  caught  hold  of  her  arms  and  pulled.  "  Now 
vou  climb  while  T  pull !"  she  cried, 


"  Oh,  I  can't  noway,  Mis'  Daggett !  You'll  pull  my  arras 
out  by  the  roots.  I  guess  you'd  better  stop." 

"  I'll  get  out  an'  boost  you  in,"  Mrs.  Daggett  said,  briskly, 
and  strode  over  the  window-sill. 

But  the  "  boosting"  was  not  successful ;  finally  little  Mrs. 
Rowe  recoiled  in  terror.  "  I'm  afraid  you'll  make  me  go 
in  there  head-first,"  said  she.  "  I  guess  you'd  better  stop, 
Mis'  Daggett.  You  go  in  an'  look  round,  an'  I'll  wait  here 
for  you." 

"I'll  tell  you  what  we  can  do:  I'll  set  out  a  chair;  you 
can  climb  in  jest  as  easy  as  not,  then." 

Mrs.  Daggett  again  climbed  in,  set  out  one  of  the  dusty 
kitchen  chairs,  and  Mrs.  Rowe  with  many  quavers  made 
her  entry.  For  a  moment  the  two  women  stood  close  to 
gether,  looking  about  them ;  Mrs.  Rowe  was  quite  pale, 
Mrs.  Daggett  shrewdly  observant.  "I'm  goin'  to  open 
them  other  blinds  an'  have  a  little  more  light,"  she  declared 
at  length. 

"  Oh,  do  you  s'pose  you'd  better?" 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  harm  it  can  do."  Mrs.  Daggett 
forced  up  the  old  windows,  and  defiantly  threw  open  the 

The  kitchen  was  a  large  one,  with  an  old  billowy  floor 
and  the  usual  furnishings.  Mrs.  Daggett  lifted  the  tea 
kettle  and  examined  it.  "  It's  all  one  bed  of  rust,"  said  she ; 
"  set  up  with  water  in't,  most  likely ;  that  Mis'  Loomis  that 
was  here  when  old  Mr.  Primrose  died  wa'n't  no  kind  of  a 
housekeeper.  I'm  a-goin'  into  the  butt'ry." 

"  Oh,  do  you  think  we'd  better  ?" 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  harm  it  can  do." 

Mrs.  Daggett  advanced  with  virtuous  steadfastness,  and 
the  other  woman,  casting  fearful  backward  glances,  followed 


hesitatingly  in  her  wake.  They  entered  the  pantry,  which 
was  as  large  as  a  small  room,  and  stood  with  their  chins 
tipped,  scanning  the  shelves.  "  There's  a  whole  set  of  white 
ware,"  said  Mrs.  Daggett,  "  an'  there's  some  blue  packed 
away  on  the  top  shelf.  I  s'pose  there's  a  chiny  closet  in 
the  parlor,  where  the  chiny  is :  they  must  have  had  some 
chiny  dishes.  Ain't  that  a  nice  platter  ?  That's  jest  what 
I  want,  a  platter  that  size.  What's  in  here  ?" 

"  Oh,  don't,  Mis'  Daggett ;  seems  to  me  I  wouldn't !" 

"  What's  the  harm,  I'd  like  to  know  ?" 

Mrs.  Daggett  lifted  the  cover  from  a  small  jar.  "It's 
quince  sauce,  sure's  you  live,"  said  she,  sniffing  cautiously. 
"  It  don't  look  to  me  as  if  it  was  hurt  one  mite.  I'm  goin' 
to  taste  of  it." 

"Oh,  Mis'  Daggett!" 

"  I  am."  Mrs.  Daggett  found  a  knife,  and  plunged  it  de 
fiantly  into  the  quince  sauce.  "  It's  jest  as  good  as  ever 
'twas;  it  ain't  worked  one  mite.  You  taste  of  it,  Mis'  Rowe." 

"Oh,  I  don't  b'lieve  I'd  better,  Mis' Daggett."  Mrs. 
Rowe  looked  with  tremulous  longing  at  the  sauce  which 
her  friend  held  towards  her  on  the  tip  of  the  knife. 

"  Land  sakes  !  take  it !  What  harm  can  it  do  ?"  Mrs. 
Daggett  gave  the  knife  a  shove  nearer,  and  Mrs.  Rowe 
opened  her  mouth. 

"  It  is  good,  ain't  it  ?"  she  said,  after  tasting  reflectively. 

"  I  don't  see  why  it  ain't.     Have  some  more." 

"  I  guess  I  hadn't  better." 

"  I'm  goin'  to.  Might  just  as  well ;  it's  only  spoilin'  here." 
Mrs.  Daggett  helped  herself  to  some  generous  dips  of  the 
sauce,  and  Mrs.  Rowe  also  took  sundry  tastes  between  her 
remonstrances.  They  found  nothing  else  that  was  edible, 
except  some  spices.  Mrs.  Daggett  took  a  pinch  of  the 


cinnamon.  "Ain't  lost  its  strength  one  mite,"  she  re 
marked  ;  "thought  I'd  like  to  see  if  it  had." 

The  Primrose  house  was  a  large,  old-fashioned  edifice. 
It  had  been  the  mansion-house  of  this  tiny  village,  and  its 
owners  had  been  the  grandees.  The  town  was  named  for 
them ;  they  had  been  almost  like  feudal  lords  of  the  little 
settlement.  Now  they  all  were  dead  with  the  exception  of 
one  daughter,  and  she  had  not  been  near  her  old  home  fo* 
twenty  years.  The  house  had  been  shut  up  since  her 
father's  death,  five  years  ago.  The  great  square  rooms 
were  damp  and  musty,  and  even  the  furniture  seemed  to 
have  acquired  an  air  of  distance  and  reserve. 

When  the  two  curious  women  penetrated  the  statelier 
and  more  withdrawn  recesses  of  the  house,  Mrs.  Rowe  eyed 
every  chair  as  if  it  were  alive  and  drawing  up  itself  haught 
ily  before  interlopers.  But  Mrs.  Daggett  had  no  such  feel 
ings.  She  investigated  everything  unsparingly.  She  be 
gan  opening  a  bureau  drawer  in  one  of  the  front  chambers. 
Mrs.  Rowe,  watching  her,  fairly  danced  with  weak  and  fas 
cinated  terror.  "Oh,  don't,  Mis'  Daggett — don't  you  open 
them  drawers  !  You  scare  me  dreadfully !"  she  cried. 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  harm  it  can  do."  Mrs.  Daggett 
pulled  out  the  drawer  with  a  jerk.  "  Oh,  my !"  she  ex 
claimed  ;  "  ain't  this  elegant !" 

Mrs.  Rowe  tremblingly  slid  towards  her  and  peeped  around 
her  shoulder,  and  just  then  came  a  loud  peal  of  the  door 
bell.  Mrs.  Rowe  clutched  Mrs.  Daggett :  "  Oh,  Mis'  Dag 
gett,  come — come  quick,  for  mercy  sake !  That's  the  door 
bell  !  Oh,  Mis'  Daggett,  they'll  ketch  us  here—they  will ! 
they  will !" 

"  Keep  still !"  returned  Mrs.  Daggett.  "  No,  they  won't 
ketch  us,  neither.  I  dun  know  as  we're  doin'  any  harm  if 


they  did."  She  gave  the  bureau  drawer  a  shove  to,  and  led 
the  retreat.  "  Come  on  down  the  back  stairs,"  she  said. 
"  Don't  break  your  neck ;  there's  time  'nough." 

When  they  were  half-way  down  the  stairs  the  bell  rang 
again.  "Oh!"  gasped  Mrs.  Rowe — "oh,  Mis'  Daggett, 
they'll  ketch  us !" 

"  No,  they  won't,  neither ;  come  along."  Mrs.  Daggett 
climbed  first  out  of  the  kitchen  window.  She  thought  that 
she  could  assist  her  friend  better  in  that  way.  "  I'll  stand 
outside  here  and  lift  you  down,"  she  said.  "  Don't  hurry 
so ;  you'll  fall  an'  break  your  bones." 

Mrs.  Rowe  mounted  a  chair  with  frantic  haste,  and  got 
into  the  window.  Mrs.  Daggett  extended  both  arms,  and 
she  jumped.  "  Mercy  sakes !  I'm  ketched  onto  somethin' !" 
she  screamed.  "  Oh,  Mis'  Daggett !"  In  fact,  Mrs.  Rowe's 
skirt  had  caught  on  something  inside,  and  she  pitched 
helplessly  against  her  friend.  "  I  hear  'em  a-comin',"  she 
groaned.  "  Oh,  what  shall  I  do  !  what  shall  I  do !" 

"  Can't  you  hang  here  a  minute,  till  I  reach  in  an'  un 
hitch  it?" 

"  Oh,  I  can't !— I  can't !  Don't  you  let  go  of  me,  Mis' 
Daggett — don't  you !  I  shall  fall  and  break  my  bones  if 
you  do.  Oh,  I  hear  'em  a-comin' !  Oh,  Mis'  Daggett,  you 
pull  as  hard  as  you  can !  It's  my  alpacky  dress.  I  ain't 
had  it  but  three  years,  but  I  don't  care  nothin'  'bout  that. 
Oh,  Mis'  Daggett !" 

Mrs.  Rowe  struggled  wildly,  and  Mrs.  Daggett  pulled ; 
finally  the  alpaca  skirt  gave  way.  Mrs.  Rowe  as  she  turned 
and  fled  cast  one  despairing  glance  at  it.  "  It's  spoilt !" 
she  groaned  ;  "  a  great  three-cornered  piece  gouged  out  of 
it.  Oh,  Mis'  Daggett,  do  hurry !" 

Mrs.  Daggett  paused  to  shut  the  window ;  then  she  over- 


took  her  friend  with  long,  vigorous  strides.  "  I  wa'n't  goin' 
to  leave  that  window  up,"  she  remarked,  "  not  if  I  knew  it." 

The  women  skirted  the  house  well  to  the  right,  and 
passed  into  the  road. 

"  Now  I'm  goin'  to  walk  by  an1  see  who  'tis,"  said  Mrs. 

"  Oh,  don't,  Mis'  Daggett ;  let's  go  right  home." 

"  I'm  jest  goin'  to  walk  up  by  the  path  where  I  can  see 
in.  Come  along;  they  won't  know  we've  been  in  the 

Mrs.  Daggett  fairly  pushed  her  timid  friend  in  the  direc 
tion  that  she  wished. 

The  Primrose  house  was  thickly  surrounded  by  trees,  and 
stood  far  back  from  the  road ;  one  could  only  get  an  unin 
terrupted  view  of  the  front  door  by  looking  directly  up  the 

Mrs.  Daggett  took  a  cautious  glance  as  she  passed  the 
gate ;  then  she  stopped  short.  "  Good  land  !"  she  ex 
claimed,  "it  ain't  anybody  but  Abel  Rice.  If  we  ain't  a 
passel  of  fools !"  She  could  see  between  the  trees  a  tall 
man  with  a  yellow  beard  leaning  against  the  front  door  of 
the  Primrose  house. 

"  Are  you  sure  it's  him  ?"  quavered  Mrs.  Rowe. 

"  Course  I'm  sure.  Don't  you  s'pose  I  know  Abel  Rice  ? 
If  it  ain't  the  greatest  piece  of  work !  There,  I  knew  all 
about  his  goin'  there  an'  ringin'  the  bell." 

"  I  never  knew  as  he  did  really." 

"  Well,  I  knew  he  did.  Mrs.  Adoniram  White  said  she'd 
seen  him  time  an'  time  again.  To  think  of  our  runnin' 
away  for  a  luny  like  Abel  Rice !" 

"  It's  awful  'bout  his  goin'  there,  ain't  it  ?" 

"  Yes,  'tis  awful.     They  say  they've  talked  an'  talked  to 


him,  but  they  can't  make  him  b'lieve  Maria  Primrose  don't 
live  there ;  an'  every  once  in  a  while,  no  matter  what  he's 
doin',  hoein'  potatoes  or  what,  he'll  steal  off  an'  go  up  there 
an'  ring  the  door-bell.  I  wish  Maria  could  see  him  some 
times,  an'  realize  what  she  did  when  she  jilted  him  for  that 
rich  feller  she  married." 

"  It  would  serve  her  jest  right ;  don't  you  think  'twould  ?" 

"Yes,  I  do  think  it  would  serve  her  jest  right." 

The  two  were  now  walking  along  the  sidewalk,  leaving 
the  Primrose  house  out  of  sight.  Presently  they  came  to 
the  house  where  Mrs.  Rowe  lived,  and  she  turned  in  at  the 
gate.  "  Good-afternoon,  Mis'  Daggett,"  said  she. 

"  Good-afternoon.    Say,  Mis'  Rowe,  look  here  a  minute." 

Mrs.  Rowe  stepped  back  obediently.  Mrs.  Daggett  ap 
proached  her  lips  to  her  ear  and  dropped  her  voice  to  a 
whisper :  "  If — I  was  you,  I  wouldn't  say  nothin'  about  our 
goin'  in  there  to  Marthy." 

"I  ain't  goin'  to,"  rejoined  Mrs.  Rowe,  with  a  wise  air; 
"you  needn't  be  afraid  of  that,  Mis'  Daggett." 

"  I  ain't  done  nothin'  I'm  ashamed  of,  but  it's  jest  as  well 
not  to  tell  everything  you  know.  I'm  dreadful  sorry  you 
tore  your  dress  so,  Mis'  Rowe." 

The  rent  in  Mrs.  Rowe's  black  alpaca  dress  attracted 
immediate  attention  when  she  entered  the  house ;  she  turned 
herself  cautiously,  but  her  sister,  Mrs.  Joy,  noticed  it  at 
once.  "  Why,  Hannah,  how  did  you  tear  your  dress  so?" 
said  she. 

"  I  ketched  it,"  replied  Mrs.  Rowe,  with  a  meek  sigh, 
turning  her  head  to  look  at  the  three-cornered  rent. 

"  Why,  I  should  think  you  did !  I  guess  you'll  have  one 
job  mendin'  it.  What  did  you  ketch  it  onto  ?" 

"  On  a  nail.     I  see  Abel  Rice  a-standin'  ringin'  the  front- 



door  bell  at  the  Primrose  house  when  I  come  by."  Mrs. 
Rowe  had  very  little  diplomacy  in  her  nature,  but  she  could 
fly  as  skittishly  as  any  other  woman  from  a  distasteful  sub- 

"  I  want  to  know !"  said  Mrs.  Joy,  with  ready  interest. 
"I  never  really  knew  whether  to  b'lieve  them  stories  about 
his  ringin'  that  bell  or  not." 

"  I  see  him  with  my  own  eyes."  Mrs.  Rowe  was  laying 
aside  her  bonnet  and  shawl,  uncovering  her  small  gray  head 
and  her  narrow  alpaca  shoulders,  which  had  a  deprecating 
slope  to  them.  One  could  judge  more  correctly  of  her 
character  from  her  shoulders  than  from  her  face,  which  was 
shifty,  reflecting  lights  and  shadows  from  others;  her  shoul 
ders  were  the  immovable  sign  of  herself. 

Mrs.  Joy  did  not  resemble  her  in  the  least;  she  was 
larger  and  stouter,  with  a  rosy  face  whose  lines  were  all 
drawn  with  decision.  When  she  was  talking  she  surveyed 
one  steadily  with  her  full  bright  eyes  that  seldom  winked. 
People  called  her  a  handsome  woman.  Her  daughter  An 
nie,  who  sat  at  the  window  with  her  crochet-work,  resem 
bled  her,  only  she  was  young  and  girlishly  slim,  her  bright, 
clear  eyes  were  blue  instead  of  black,  and  her  hair  was 
light.  There  was  a  brilliant  color  on  her  rather  thin 
cheeks.  She  crocheted  some  scarlet  worsted  very  rapidly, 
making  her  slender  fingers  fly.  Her  mother  had  a  signifi 
cant  side  tone  for  her  in  her  voice  when  she  spoke  again. 

"  Well,  there's  no  use  talkin',  Abel  Rice  couldn't  have  had 
any  brains  to  speak  of,  or  he  wouldn't  have  lost  'em  so 
easy,"  said  she.  "  This  goin'  crazy  for  love  is  something  I 
don't  put  much  stock  in,  for  my  part.  Folks  must  have  a 
weak  spot  somewhere,  or  it  would  take  something  more 
than  love  to  tip  'em  over,  I  guess  none  of  the  Rices  are 


any  too  smart,  when  it  comes  right  down  to  it.  It  ain't  a 
family  I  should  want  to  get  into." 

Annie  never  said  a  word  ;  she  crocheted  faster. 

Mrs.  Rowe  had  dropped  her  shawl-pin,  and  had  been 
hunting  for  it.  Just  then  she  found  it,  and  rose  up.  "  I 
should  be  kind  of  afraid  if  Frank  Rice  had  any — such  kind 
of  trouble,  it  might  affect  him  the  same  way.  Shouldn't 
you  ?"  said  she. 

She  fairly  jumped  when  her  sister  replied  :  "  Afraid  of 
it  ?  No,  I  guess  I  shouldn't  be  afraid  of  it.  I  guess  there 
don't  many  folks  get  crazy  for  —  love."  Mrs.  Joy  pro 
nounced  "  love  "  with  an  affectedly  sweet  drawl. 

Mrs.  Rowe  colored  shamefacedly.  "  I  s'pose  Abel  did ; 
don't  you  ?" 

"  No,  I  don't,  neither.  Most  likely  he'd  got  crazy  any 
way  ;  it  was  in  him." 

"  Well,  I  dun  know."  Mrs.  Rowe  always  departed  from 
an  argument  with  a  mild  profession  of  ignorance.  She 
stood  in  awe  of  her  sister. 

When  she  left  the  room  to  put  away  her  bonnet,  Mrs.  Joy 
turned  to  Annie :  "  Ain't  you  goin*  to  see  him  to-night  ?" 
she  asked. 

"  I — haven't  made  up  my  mind." 

"  I  should  think  it  was  about  time  you  did.  There's  the 
picnic  comin'  off  to-morrow." 

"  No,  it  isn't,  either." 

"When  is  it,  I'd  like  to  know?" 

"The  day  after  to-morrow." 

"  Well,  you  ain't  got  any  too  much  time ;  you'd  ought  to 
let  him  know  a  little  beforehand,  so  he  can  get  somebody 
else.  I  should  think  you'd  better  see  him  when  he  goes 
home  to-night ;  it  will  do  jest  as  well  as  any  way." 


Annie  kept  her  eyes  upon  her  crocheting ;  her  cheeks 
grew  redder.  "  I've — about  made  up  my  mind  that  I  shall 
go  with  him,  anyway,"  she  muttered. 


"  I've  about  made  up  my  mind  to  go  with  Frank  the  way 
I  said  I  would." 

Mrs.  Joy's  eyes  snapped.  "  Well,  if  you  do,  you'll  have 
to  give  up  all  thoughts  of  Henry  Simpson,  that's  all,"  said 
she.  "  If  he  sees  you  at  that  picnic  with  Frank  Rice,  he'll 
think  it's  all  decided,  an'  he'll  let  you  alone." 

"  Sometimes  I  think  I'd  rather  wish  he  would." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  you  mean." 

"  I've  made  up  my  mind  that  I  don't  want  him,  anyway." 

"  H'm  !     I'd  like  to  know  why." 

Annie  crocheted  silently  for  a  minute.  "  Well,  I  suppose 
that  I  like  Frank  the  best,"  she  murmured,  with  a  shame 
faced  air. 

"  Oh !  Well,  I  s'pose  that's  all  that's  necessary,  then.  I 
s'pose  if  you — love  him,  there  ain't  anything  more  to  be 

The  manner  with  which  her  mother's  voice  lingered  upon 
love  made  it  seem  at  once  shameful  and  ridiculous  to  the 
girl ;  but  she  raised  a  plea  in  her  own  defence. 

"  I  don't  care,"  said  she  ;  "  I  don't  think  it's  right  to  get 
married  unless  you  do  love  the  one  you  marry." 

"  I  guess  you'll  find  out  that  there's  something  besides 
love  if  you  do  get  married  to  Frank  Rice,  or  I'll  miss  my 
guess.  When  you  get  settled  down  there  in  that  little 
cooped-up  house  with  his  father  and  mother  and  crazy 
uncle,  an'  don't  have  enough  money  to  buy  you  a  calico 
dress,  you'll  find  out  it  ain't  all — love" 

"  He'd  build  a  piece  on  to  the  house." 


"  An'  run  in  debt  for  it ;  you  know  he  ain't  got  a  cent. 
Well,  Annie  Joy,  I've  said  all  I'm  goin'  to.  You  know  how 
things  are  jest  as  well  as  I  can  tell  you.  You  know  how 
I've  dug  an'  scrimped  all  my  life,  an'  you  know  how  we're 
situated  now ;  it's  jest  all  we  can  do  to  get  along,  an'  your 
father's  an  old  man.  If  you  marry  Frank  Rice  you'll  have 
to  live  jest  as  I've  done,  only  you  won't  be  so  well  off,  if 
anything ;  your  father  had  a  good  house,  all  paid  for,  when 
we  started.  You'll  have  to  work  an'  slave,  an'  never  go 
anywhere  nor  have  anything ;  you'll  have  to  make  up  your 
mind  to  it.  An'  if  you  have  Henry  Simpson,  you'll  live 
over  in  Lennox,  an'  have  everything  nice,  an'  people  will 
look  up  to  you.  You'll  have  to  take  your  choice,  that's  all 
I've  got  to  say." 

Mrs.  Joy  got  up  and  went  out  of  the  room  with  a  heavy 
flourish.  On  the  threshold  she  turned:  "Ain't  it  most 
time  for  him  to  go  by  ?" 

Annie  nodded.  Soon  after  her  mother  left  the  room  she 
saw  at  a  swift  glance  the  young  man  of  whom  they  had  been 
speaking  coming  down  the  sidewalk.  She  looked  quickly 
away,  and  never  raised  her  eyes  from  her  crocheting  when 
he  went  by. 

"  Has  he  been  past  ?"  asked  her  mother  when  she  came 


Mrs.  Joy  compressed  her  lips.  "  Well,  you  can  do  jest 
as  you  are  a  mind  to,"  said  she. 

Yet  she  continued  to  talk  and  advance  arguments.  If 
Annie  did  not  go  to  the  picnic  with  Frank,  she  had  little 
doubt  that  matters  would  be  brought  to  a  favorable  climax 
with  regard  to  the  other  young  man,  who  had  lately  paid 
her  much  attention.  She  was  making  a  new  dress  for 


Annie  to  wear,  and  she  sewed  and  reasoned  with  her  all 
that  evening  and  during  the  next  day. 

In  the  afternoon  a  young  girl,  an  acquaintance  of  Annie's, 
came  in.  She  had  just  returned  from  Lennox,  where  she 
had  been  shopping.  Lennox  was  a  large  village — the  city 
for  this  little  hamlet  of  Primrose  Hill. 

"  I  saw  somebody  there,"  said  the  girl,  with  a  significant 
smile  at  Annie,  "  and  he  looked  real  handsome.  He  was 
driving  a  beautiful  horse,  and  he's  got  one  of  those  new- 
style  carriages.  If  I  was  some  folks  I  should  feel  pretty 

"  Alice  would  give  all  her  old  shoes  to  get  a  chance  like 
you,"  remarked  Mrs.  Joy  after  the  visitor  had  gone. 

"  I  don't  believe  she'd  treat  another  fellow  mean  to  get 
it,"  said  Annie.  She  had  looked  doubtfully  pleased  at  the 
girl's  joking. 

"  I  don't  see  as  your  treatin'  him  mean  if  you  let  him 
know  beforehand.  I  guess  you  ain't  the  only  girl  that 
changes  her  mind.  Mebbe  he'll  take  up  with  Alice.  I 
should  think  she'd  make  him  a  real  good  wife." 

"  He  won't ;  I  can  tell  you  that  much.  He  can't  bear 

"Well,  he'll  find  somebody.  It's  'most  time  for  him  to 
go  by,  ain't  it?" 

"I  suppose  so,"  replied  Annie,  coldly. 

It  was  late  in  the  afternoon.  An  hour  ago  Mrs.  Daggett 
had  called  for  Mrs.  Rowe,  and  the  two  old  women  had 
sauntered  up  the  street  together.  "  I  didn't  tell  you  what  I 
see  in  that  bureau  drawer,"  Mrs.  Daggett  had  whispered 
when  they  started  forth ;  "  it  was  the  handsomest  black 
satin  I  ever  laid  my  eyes  on.  I — mean  to  see  it  again" 

"  Oh,  Mis'  Daggett !" 


"  I'd  like  to  know  what  harm  it  can  do." 

The  two,  in  their  homely  black  gowns,  had  moved  on 
towards  the  Primrose  house.  Frank  Rice  would  have  to 
pass  it  on  his  way  home  from  his  work :  he  lived  a  half- 
mile  beyond. 

Mrs.  Joy,  as  she  talked  to  Annie,  kept  her  face  turned 
towards  the  road,  watching  for  him.  "There  he  is,"  she 
said,  presently.  Annie  bent  over  her  work.  "  Do  you 
hear?"  her  mother  repeated,  sharply. 

"Yes,  I  hear."  Suddenly  Annie  sat  up  straight  and 
looked  in  her  mother's  eyes.  "  I  can't  do  it,"  said  she. 

"  I'd  like  to  know  why  not.     Hurry,  or  he'll  be  gone  by." 

Annie  sat  quite  still  for  a  minute ;  her  eyes  were  staring 
and  her  mouth  set  hard.  Then  she  arose  and  went  out  of 
the  front  door  and  down  the  walk.  The  man  reached  the 
gate  just  as  she  did.  She  started,  and  turned  a  white  face 
back  towards  the  window  ;  it  was  Frank  Rice's  uncle  Abel, 
who,  people  said,  had  lost  his  wits  because  Maria  Primrose 
had  jilted  him.  He  passed,  and  Annie  clung  to  the  gate. 
An  awful  voice  of  prophetic  denunciation  seemed  to  cry 
through  all  her  weakness  and  ignoble  ambition.  Her 
mother  appeared  in  the  door,  and  drew  back  hastily ;  she 
had  seen  Frank  Rice  coming,  following  in  the  track  of  his 
uncle.  She  remarked  for  the  first  time  a  strong  resem 
blance  between  the  two  men,  and  it  thrilled  her  with  a 
strange  horror.  She  went  back  into  the  sitting-room,  and 
peered  around  a  corner  of  a  window.  When  Frank  reached 
the  gate,  she  saw  Annie  step  forward.  She  saw  them  stand 
and  talk  for  a  few  minutes  ;  then  they  walked  slowly  up  the 
street  together. 

"What's  she  doin'  that  for?"  muttered  her  mother  with 
a  bewildered  air ;  she  felt  singularly  shocked  and  subdued. 



Annie  and  Frank  went  out  of  sight  in  the  direction  of  the 
Primrose  house. 

It  might  have  been  an  hour  later  when  a  woman  came 
slowly  up  the  hill  which  gave  its  name  to  the  little  settle 
ment.  She  had  walked  from  Lennox ;  she  had  not  money 
enough  to  pay  her  fare  in  the  coach  which  ran  between  the 
two  villages.  It  rattled  past  her  on  the  road ;  the  passen 
gers  thrust  out  their  heads  and  stared  at  her.  "  I  declare, 
I  believe  that's  Maria  Primrose,"  said  one  woman  to  an 
other.  Maria  Primrose,  to  call  her  as  her  old  neighbors  did 
by  her  maiden  name,  toiled  slowly  up  Primrose  Hill.  She 
was  a  middle-aged  woman,  with  a  slender  figure  like  a  girl's ; 
but  her  face,  which  had  been  handsome,  had  not  kept  its 
youth  so  well ;  one  on  passing  her  saw  it  with  a  certain  dis 
appointment.  Her  black  clothes  had  an  elegant  and  al 
most  foreign  air ;  some  of  the  rich  silk  pleatings  were  frayed, 
but  that  did  not  hurt  the  general  effect. 

When  she  had  come  within  half  a  mile  of  the  Primrose 
house  she  saw  a  man  at  work  in  a  potato  field  on  the  left 
of  the  road.  She  stopped  and  looked  at  him.  Everything 
was  very  dusty,  and  the  wind  blew ;  great  clouds  of  dust 
rolled  up  from  the  road,  and  passed  like  smoke  over  the 
fields  ;  now  the  setting  sun  shone  through  it  and  gave  it  a 
gold  color.  Maria  saw  the  man  through  a  cloud  of  golden 

He  threw  down  his  hoe  and  came  towards  her,  and  she 
stood  waiting.  When  he  was  near  enough,  on  the  other 
side  of  the  stone  wall,  she  looked  in  his  face.  His  large 
blue  eyes  looked  straight  at  her  with  a  gentle  and  indiffer 
ent  stare,  his  yellow-bearded  mouth  smiled  pleasantly  and 

Maria  went  on.     Presently  she  heard  a  quick  shuffle  be- 


hind  her,  and  Abel  Rice  passed,  never  turning  his  head ; 
he  was  soon  out  of  sight.  When  Maria  Primrose  went  up 
the  path  to  her  old  home,  he  stood  straight  and  gaunt  be 
fore  the  door ;  he  had  pulled  the  bell,  and  he  was  listening. 
When  he  saw  Maria  he  shuffled  off  the  end  of  the  piazza, 
and  disappeared  among  the  trees.  She  looked  after  him 
for  a  second,  then  she  unlocked  the  door. 

There  was  a  scream  and  a  patter  of  feet  up  in  the  second 
story,  then  a  scramble  over  the  back  stairs ;  Mrs.  Daggett 
and  Mrs.  Rowe  were  making  their  escape  from  the  house. 
Annie  Joy  and  Frank  Rice  were  also  fleeing  from  the  pre 
cincts  of  the  Primrose  house.  Its  front  piazza  had  looked 
quiet  and  isolated,  and  they  had  strolled  up  there  and 
seated  themselves.  They  arose  and  went  away  when  Abel 
Rice  came  and  rang  the  bell  to  summon  his  lost  sweet 
heart  ;  they  held  each  other's  hands,  and  sped  along  be 
tween  the  trees.  They  saw  Maria,  and  quickened  their 
pace ;  but  before  they  had  passed  out  into  the  road,  Frank 
cast  a  hasty  glance  around,  and  the  two  kissed  each  other. 

Maria  Primrose  entered  her  old  home  to  pass  the  re 
mainder  of  her  life  in  lonely  and  unavailing  regret  and  a 
dulness  which  was  not  peace  ;  the  two  curious  old  women 
hustled  guiltily  out  of  the  kitchen  window ;  Abel  Rice  went 
his  solemn  and  miserable  way  ;  and  the  young  lovers  passed 
happily  forth,  starting  up  before  her  like  doves.  There  had 
been  a  wreck,  and  the  sight  of  it  had  prevented  another. 


"I  DON'T  s'pose  you  air  goin'  to  do  much  Christmas 
over  to  your  house." 

Mrs.  Luther  Ely  stood  looking  over  her  gate.  There 
was  a  sweet,  hypocritical  smile  on  her  little  thin  red  mouth. 
Her  old  china-blue  eyes  stared  as  innocently  as  a  baby's, 
although  there  was  a  certain  hardness  in  them.  Her  soft 
wrinkled  cheeks  were  pink  and  white  with  the  true  blond 
tints  of  her  youth,  which  she  had  never  lost.  She  was  now 
an  old  woman,  but  people  still  looked  at  her  with  admiring 
eyes,  and  probably  would  until  she  died.  All  her  life  long 
her  morsel  of  the  world  had  had  in  it  a  sweet  savor  of  ad 
miration,  and  she  had  smacked  her  little  feminine  lips  over 
it  greedily.  She  expected  every  one  to  contribute  tow 
ards  it,  even  this  squat,  shabby,  defiant  old  body  standing 
squarely  out  in  the  middle  of  the  road.  Marg'ret  Poole 
had  stopped  unwillingly  to  exchange  courtesies  with  Mrs. 
Luther  Ely.  She  looked  aggressive.  She  eyed  with  a  side- 
wise  glance  the  other  woman's  pink,  smirking  face. 

"  'Tain't  likely  we  be,"  she  said,  in  a  voice  which  age 
had  made  gruff  instead  of  piping.  Then  she  took  a  step 

"  Well,  we  ain't  goin'  to  do  much,"  continued  Mrs.  Ely, 
with  an  air  of  subdued  loftiness.  "  We  air  jest  goin'  to  hev 



a  little  Christmas  tree  for  the  children.  Flora's  goin'  to 
git  a  few  things.  She  says  there's  a  very  nice  'sortment  up 
to  White's." 

Marg'ret  gave  a  kind  of  affirmative  grunt ;  then  she  tried 
to  move  on,  but  Mrs.  Ely  would  not  let  her. 

"  I  dun  know  as  you  have  noticed  our  new  curtains,"  said 

Had  she  not !  Poor  Marg'ret  Poole,  who  had  only  green 
paper  shades  in  her  own  windows,  had  peeped  slyly  around 
the  corner  of  one,  and  watched  mournfully,  though  not 
enviously,  her  opposite  neighbor  tacking  up  those  elegant 
Nottingham-lace  draperies,  and  finally  tying  them  back 
with  bows  of  red  ribbon. 

Marg'ret  would  have  given  much  to  have  scouted  scorn 
fully  the  idea,  but  she  was  an  honest  old  woman,  if  not  a 
sweet  one. 

"Yes,  I  see  'em,"  said  she,  shortly. 

"  Don't  you  think  they're  pretty  ?" 

"  Well  'nough,"  replied  Marg'ret,  with  another  honest  rigor. 

"They  cost  consider'ble.  I  told  Flora  I  thought  she 
was  kind  of  extravagant;  but  then  Sam's  airnin'  pretty 
good  wages.  I  dun  know  but  they  may  jest  as  well  have 
things.  Them  white  cotton  curtains  looked  dreadful  kind 
of  gone  by." 

Marg'ret  thought  of  her  green  paper  ones.  She  did  not 
hate  this  other  old  woman ;  she  at  once  admired  and  de 
spised  her ;  and  this  admiration  of  one  whom  she  despised 
made  her  angry  with  herself  and  ashamed.  She  was  never 
at  her  ease  with  Mrs.  Luther  Ely. 

Mrs.  Ely  had  run  out  of  her  house  on  purpose  to  inter 
cept  her  and  impress  her  with  her  latest  grandeur — the 
curtains  and  the  Christmas  tree.  She  was  sure  of  it.  Stih 


she  looked  with  fine  appreciation  at  the  other's  delicate 
pinky  face,  her  lace  cap  adorned  with  purple  ribbons,  her 
black  gown  with  a  flounce  around  the  bottom.  The  gown 
was  rusty,  but  Marg'ret  did  not  notice  that ;  her  own  was 
only  a  chocolate  calico.  Black  wool  of  an  afternoon  was 
sumptuous  to  her.  She  thought  how  genteel  she  looked  in 
it.  Mrs.  Ely  still  retained  her  slim,  long-waisted  effect. 
Marg'ret  had  lost  every  sign  of  youthful  grace ;  she  was 
solidly  square  and  stout. 

Mrs.  Ely  had  run  out,  in  her  haste,  without  a  shawl ; 
indeed,  the  weather  was  almost  warm  enough  to  go  without 
one.  It  was  only  a  week  before  Christmas,  but  there  was 
no  snow,  and  the  grass  was  quite  bright  in  places.  There 
were  green  lights  over  in  the  field,  and  also  in  the  house 
yards.  There  was  a  soft  dampness  in  the  air,  which  brought 
spring  to  mind.  It  almost  seemed  as  if  one,  by  listening 
intently,  might  hear  frogs  or  bluebirds. 

Now  Marg'ret  stepped  resolutely  across  the  street  to  her 
little  house,  which  was  shingled,  but  not  painted,  except 
on  the  front.  Some  one  had  painted  that  red  many  years 

Mrs.  Ely,  standing  before  her  glossy  white  cottage,  which 
had  even  a  neat  little  hood  over  its  front  door,  cried,  patron 
izingly,  after  her  once  again  : 

"  I'm  comin'  over  to  see  you  as  soon  as  I  can,"  said  she, 
"  arter  Christmas.  We  air  dretful  busy  now." 

"  Well,  come  when  ye  can,"  Marg'ret  responded,  shortly. 
Then  she  entered  between  the  dry  lilac  bushes,  and  shut 
the  door  with  a  bang. 

Even  out  in  the  yard  she  had  heard  a  shrill  clamor  of 
children's  voices  from  the  house;  when  she  stood  in  the 
little  entry  it  was  deafening. 


"Them  children  is  raisin'  Cain,"  muttered  she.  Then 
she  threw  open  the  door  of  the  room  where  they  where. 
There  were  three  of  them  in  a  little  group  near  the  window. 
Their  round  yellow  heads  bobbed,  their  fat  little  legs  and 
arms  swung  wildly.  "  Granny  !  granny !"  shouted  they. 

"  For  the  land  sake,  don't  make  such  a  racket !  Mis' 
Ely  can  hear  you  over  to  her  house,"  said  Marg'ret. 

"  Untie  us.  Ain't  ye  goin'  to  untie  us  now  ?  Say, 

"  I'll  untie  ye  jest  as  soon  as  I  can  get  my  things  off. 
Stop  hollerin'." 

In  the  ceiling  were  fixed  three  stout  hooks.  A  strong 
rope  was  tied  around  each  child's  waist,  and  the  two  ends 
fastened  securely  around  a  hook.  The  ropes  were  long 
enough  to  allow  the  children  free  range  of  the  room,  but 
they  kept  them  just  short  of  one  dangerous  point — the 
stove.  The  stove  was  the  fiery  dragon  which  haunted 
Marg'ret's  life.  Many  a  night  did  she  dream  that  one  of 
those  little  cotton  petticoats  had  whisked  too  near  it,  and 
the  flames  were  roaring  up  around  a  little  yellow  head. 
Many  a  day,  when  away  from  home,  the  same  dreadful 
pictures  had  loomed  out  before  her  eyes ;  her  lively  fancy 
had  untied  these  stout  knots,  and  she  had  hurried  home  in 
a  panic. 

Marg'ret  took  off  her  hood  and  shawl,  hung  them  care 
fully  in  the  entry,  and  dragged  a  wooden  chair  under  a 
hook.  She  was  a  short  woman,  and  she  had  to  stretch  up 
on  her  tiptoes  to  untie  those  hard  knots.  Her  face  turned 
a  purplish  red. 

This  method  of  restriction  was  the  result  of  long  thought 
and  study  on  her  part.  She  had  tried  many  others,  which 
had  proved  ineffectual.  Willy,  the  eldest,  could  master 


knots  like  a  sailor.  Many  a  time  the  grandmother  had 
returned  to  find  the  house  empty.  Willy  had  unfastened 
his  own  knot  and  liberated  his  little  sisters,  and  then  all 
three  had  made  the  most  of  their  freedom.  But  even  Willy, 
with  his  sharp  five-year-old  brain  and  his  nimble  little  fin 
gers,  could  not  untie  a  knot  whose  two  ends  brushed  the 
ceiling.  Now  Marg'ret  was  sure  to  find  them  all  where 
she  left  them. 

After  the  children  were  set  at  liberty  she  got  their  sup- 
per,  arranging  it  neatly  on  the  table  between  the  windows. 
There  was  a  nice  white  table  cover,  and  the  six  silver  tea 
spoons  shone.  The  teaspoons  were  the  mark  of  a  flood- 
tide  of  Marg'ret's  aspirations,  and  she  had  had  aspirations 
all  her  life.  She  had  given  them  to  her  daughter,  the  chil 
dren's  mother,  on  her  marriage.  She  herself  had  never 
owned  a  bit  of  silver,  but  she  determined  to  present  her 
daughter  with  some. 

"  I'm  goin'  to  have  you  have  things  like  other  folks," 
she  had  said. 

Now  the  daughter  was  dead,  and  she  had  the  spoons. 
She  regarded  the  daily  use  of  them  as  an  almost  sinful 
luxury,  but  she  brought  them  out  in  their  heavy  glass  tum 
bler  every  meal. 

"  I'm  goin'  to  have  them  children  learn  to  eat  off  silver 
spoons,"  she  said,  defiantly,  to  their  father ;  4<  they'll  think 
more  of  themselves." 

The  father,  Joseph  Snow,  was  trying  to  earn  a  living  in 
the  city,  a,  hundred  miles  distant.  He  was  himself  very 
young,  and  had  not  hitherto  displayed  much  business  ca 
pacity,  although  he  was  good  and  willing.  They  had  been 
very  poor  before  his  wife  died ;  ever  since  he  had  not  been 
able  to  do  much  more  than  feed  and  clothe  himself.  He 


had  sent  a  few  dollars  to  Marg'ret  from  time  to  time — dol 
lars  which  he  had  saved  and  scrimped  pitifully  to  accumu 
late — but  the  burden  of  their  support  had  come  upon  her. 

She  had  sewed  carpets  and  assisted  in  spring  cleanings 
— everything  to  which  she  could  turn  a  hand.  Marg'ret 
was  a  tailoress,  but  she  could  now  get  no  employment  at 
her  trade.  The  boys  all  wore  "store  clothes"  in  these 
days.  She  could  only  pick  up  a  few  cents  at  a  time ;  still 
she  managed  to  keep  the  children  in  comfort,  with  a  roof 
over  their  heads  and  something  to  eat.  Their  cheeks  were 
fat  and  pink ;  they  were  noisy  and  happy,  and  also  pretty. 

After  the  children  were  in  bed  that  night  she  stood  in 
her  kitchen  window  and  gazed  across  at  Mrs.  Luther  Ely's 
house.  She  had  left  the  candle  in  the  children's  room — 
the  little  things  were  afraid  without  it — and  she  had  not 
yet  lighted  one  for  herself;  so  she  could  see  out  quite 
plainly,  although  the  night  was  dark.  There  was  a  light 
in  the  parlor  of  the  opposite  house ;  the  Nottingham-lace 
curtains  showed  finely  their  pattern  of  leaves  and  flow 
ers.  Marg'ret  eyed  them.  "  'Tain't  no  use  my  tryin'  to 
git  up  a  notch,"  she  muttered.  "  'Tain't  no  use  for  some 
folks.  They  ain't  worked  no  harder  than  I  have ;  Louisa 
Ely  ain't  never  begun  to  work  so  hard ;  but  they  can  have 
lace  curtains  an'  Christmas  trees." 

The  words  sounded  envious.  Still  she  was  hardly  that ; 
subsequent  events  proved  it.  Her  "  tryin'  to  git  up  a  notch  " 
explained  everything.  Mrs.  Luther  Ely,  the  lace-curtains, 
and  the  Christmas  tree  were  as  three  stars  set  on  that  higher 
"  notch  "  which  she  wished  to  gain.  If  the  other  woman 
had  dressed  in  silk  instead  of  rusty  wool,  if  the  lace  dra 
peries  had  been  real,  Marg'ret  would  hardly  have  wasted 
one  wistful  glance  on  them.  But  Mrs.  Luther  Ely  had 


been  all  her  life  the  one  notch  higher,  which  had  seemed 
almost  attainable.  In  that  opposite  house  there  was  only 
one  carpet;  Marg'ret  might  have  hoped  for  one  carpet. 
Mrs.  Ely's  son-in-law  earned  only  a  comfortable  living  for 
his  family  ;  Marg'ret' s  might  have  done  that.  Worst  of  all, 
each  woman  had  one  daughter,  and  Marg'ret' s  had  died. 

Marg'ret  had  been  ambitious  all  her  life.  She  had  made 
struggle  after  struggle.  The  tailoress  trade  was  one  of 
them.  She  made  up  her  mind  that  she  would  have  things 
like  other  people.  Then  she  married,  and  her  husband 
spent  her  money.  One  failure  came  after  another.  She 
slipped  back  again  and  again  on  the  step  to  that  higher 
notch.  And  here  she  was  to-night,  old  and  poor,  with 
these  three  helpless  children  dependent  upon  her. 

But  she  felt  something  besides  disappointed  ambition  as 
she  stood  gazing  out  to-night. 

"  There's  the  children,"  she  went  on  ;  "  can't  have  nuthin' 
for  Christmas.  I  ain't  got  a  cent  I  can  spare.  If  I  git  'em 
enough  to  eat,  I'm  lucky." 

Presently  she  turned  away  and  lighted  a  lamp.  She  had 
some  sewing  to  do  for  the  children,  and  was  just  sitting 
down  with  it,  when  she  paused  suddenly  and  stood  reflect 

"  I've  got  a  good  mind  to  go  down  to  White's  an'  see 
what  he's  got  in  for  Christmas,"  said  she.  "  Mebbe  Jo 
seph  '11  send  some  money  'long  next  week,  an'  if  he  does, 
mebbe  I  can  git  'em  some  little  thing.  It  would  be  a  good 
plan  for  me  to  kind  of  price  'em." 

Marg'ret  laid  her  work  down,  got  her  hood  and  shawl, 
and  went  out,  fastening  the  house  securely,  and  also  the 
door  of  the  room  where  the  stove  was. 

To  her  eyes  the  village  store  which  she  presently  entered 


was  a  very  emporium  of  beauty  and  richness.  She  stared 
at  the  festoons  of  evergreens,  the  dangling  trumpets  and 
drums,  the  counters  heaped  with  cheap  toys,  with  awe  and 
longing.  She  asked  respectfully  the  price  of  this  and  that, 
some  things  less  pretentious  than  the  others.  But  it  was 
all  beyond  her.  She  might  as  well  have  priced  diamonds 
and  bronzes.  As  she  stood  looking,  sniffing  in  the  odor 
of  evergreen  and  new  varnish,  which  was  to  her  a  very 
perfume  of  Christmas,  arising  from  its  fulness  of  peace  and 
merriment,  Flora  Trask,  Mrs.  Ely's  daughter,  entered.  Mar- 
g'ret  went  out  quickly.  "  She'll  see  I  ain't  buyin'  any 
thing,"  she  thought  to  herself. 

But  Marg'ret  Poole  came  again  the  next  day,  and  the 
next,  and  the  next — morning,  afternoon,  and  evening.  "  I 
dun  know  but  I  may  want  to  buy  some  things  by-an'-by," 
she  told  the  proprietor,  apologetically,  "  an'  I  thought  I'd 
kind  of  like  to  price  'em." 

She  stood  about,  eying,  questioning,  and  fingering  ten 
derly.  No  money-letter  came  from  Joseph.  She  inquired 
anxiously  at  the  post-office  many  times  a  day.  She  tried 
to  get  work  to  raise  a  little  extra  money,  but  she  could  get 
none  at  this  time  of  the  year.  She  visited  Mrs.  White,  the 
storekeeper's  wife,  and  asked  with  forlorn  hope  if  she  had 
no  tailor-work  for  her.  There  were  four  boys  in  that  fam 
ily.  But  Mrs.  White  shook  her  head.  She  was  a  good 
woman.  "  I'm  sorry,"  said  she,  "  but  I  haven't  got  a  mite. 
The  boys  wouldn't  wear  home-made  clothes." 

She  looked  pitifully  at  Marg'ret's  set,  disappointed  face 
when  she  went  out. 

Finally  those  animals  of  sugar  and  wood,  those  pink-faced, 
straight-bodied  dolls,  those  tin  trumpets  and  express  wag 
ons,  were  to  Marg'ret  as  the  fair  apples  hanging  over  the 


garden  wall  were  to  Christiana's  sons  in  the  Pilgrim's  Prog 
ress.  She  gazed  and  gazed,  until  at  last  the  sight  and 
the  smell  of  them  were  too  much  for  her. 

The  evening  before  Christmas  she  went  up  to  the  post- 
office.  The  last  mail  was  in,  and  there  was  no  letter  for 
her.  Then  she  kept  on  to  the  store.  It  was  rather  early, 
and  there  were  not  as  yet  many  customers.  Marg'ret  began 
looking  about  as  usual.  She  might  have  been  in  the  store 
ten  minutes  when  she  suddenly  noticed  a  parcel  on  the 
corner  of  a  counter.  It  was  nicely  tied.  It  belonged 
evidently  to  one  of  the  persons  who  were  then  trading  in 
the  store  or  was  to  be  delivered  outside  later.  Mr.  White 
was  not  in ;  two  of  his  sons  and  a  boy  clerk  were  waiting 
upon  the  customers. 

Marg'ret,  once  attracted  by  this  parcel,  could  not  take 
her  eyes  from  it  long.  She  pored  over  the  other  wares 
with  many  sidelong  glances  at  it.  Her  thoughts  centred 
upon  it,  and  her  imagination.  What  could  be  in  it  ?  To 
whom  could  it  belong  ? 

Marg'ret  Poole  had  always  been  an  honest  woman.  She 
had  never  taken  a  thing  which  did  not  belong  to  her  in  her 
whole  life.  She  suddenly  experienced  a  complete  moral 
revulsion.  It  was  as  if  her  principles,  whose  weights  were 
made  shifty  by  her  long  watching  and  longing,  had  suddenly 
gyrated  in  a  wild  somersault.  While  they  were  reversed, 
Marg'ret,  warily  glancing  around,  slipped  that  parcel  under 
her  arm,  opened  the  door,  and  sped  home. 

It  was  better  Christmas  weather  than  it  had  been  a  week 
ago.  There  was  now  a  fine  level  of  snow,  and  the  air  was 
clear  and  cold.  Marg'ret  panted  as  she  walked.  The 
snow  creaked  under  her  feet.  She  met  many  people  hurry 
ing  along  in  chattering  groups.  She  wondered  if  they 


could  see  the  parcel  under  her  shawl.  It  was  quite  a  large 

When  she  got  into  her  own  house  she  hastened  to  strike 
a  light.  Then  she  untied  the  parcel.  There  were  in  it  some 
pink  sugar  cats  and  birds,  two  tin  horses  and  a  little  wagon, 
a  cheap  doll,  and  some  bright  picture-books,  besides  a 
paper  of  candy. 

"  My  land  !"  said  Marg'ret,  "  won't  they  be  tickled  !" 

There  was  a  violent  nervous  shivering  all  over  her  stout 
frame.  "  Why  can't  I  keep  still  ?"  said  she. 

She  got  out  three  of  the  children's  stockings,  filled  them, 
and  hung  them  up  beside  the  chimney.  Then  she  drew  a 
chair  before  the  stove,  and  went  over  to  the  bureau  to  get 
her  Bible :  she  always  read  a  chapter  before  she  went  to  bed. 
Marg'ret  was  not  a  church  member,  she  never  said  anything 
about  it,  but  she  had  a  persistent,  reticent  sort  of  religion. 
She  took  up  the  Bible  ;  then  laid  it  down  ;  then  she  took  it 
up  again  with  a  clutch. 

"I  don't  care,"  said  she,  "  I  ain't  done  nothin'  so  terrible 
out  of  the  way.  What  can't  be  aimed,  when  anybody's 
willin'  to  work,  ought  to  be  took.  I'm  goin'  to  wait  till 
arter  Christmas;  then  I'm  jest  goin'  up  to  Mis'  Whitens 
some  arternoon,  an'  I'm  goin'  to  say, '  Mis'  White,'  says  I, 
'the  day  before  Christmas  I  went  into  your  husband's  store, 
an'  I  see  a  bundle  a-layin'  on  the  counter,  an'  I  took  it,  an' 
said  nothin'  to  nobody.  I  shouldn't  ha'  done  such  a  thing 
if  you'd  give  me  work,  the  way  I  asked  you  to,  instead  of 
goin'  outside  an'  buyin'  things  for  your  boys,  an'  robbin* 
honest  folks  of  the  chance  to  aim.  Now,  Mis'  White,  I'll 
tell  you  jest  what  I'm  willin'  to  do :  you  give  me  somethin' 
to  do,  an'  I'll  work  out  twice  the  price  of  them  things  I 
took,  an'  we'll  call  it  even.  If  you  don't,  all  is,  your  hus- 


band  will  have  to  lose  it.'  I  wonder  what  she'll  say  to 

Marg'ret  said  all  this  with  her  head  thrown  back,  in  a 
tone  of  indescribable  defiance.  Then  she  sat  down  with 
her  Bible  and  read  a  chapter. 

The  next  day  she  watched  the  children's  delight  over 
their  presents  with  a  sort  of  grim  pleasure. 

She  charged  them  to  say  nothing  about  them,  although 
there  was  little  need  of  it.  Marg'ret  had  few  visitors,  and 
the  children  were  never  allowed  to  run  into  the  neighbors'. 

Two  days  after  Christmas  the  postmaster  stopped  at  Mar- 
g'ret's  house  :  his  own  was  just  beyond. 

He  handed  a  letter  to  her.  "  This  came  Christmas  morn 
ing,"  said  he.  "  I  thought  I'd  bring  it  along  on  my  way 
home.  I  knew  you  hadn't  been  in  for  two  or  three  days, 
and  I  thought  you  were  expecting  a  letter." 

"  Thank  ye,"  said  Marg'ret.  She  pulled  the  letter  open, 
and  saw  there  was  some  money  in  it.  She  turned  very 

"  Hope  you  ain't  got  any  bad  news,"  said  the  postmaster. 

"  No,  I  ain't."  After  he  had  gone  she  sat  down  and  read 
her  letter  with  her  knees  shaking. 

Joseph  Snow  had  at  last  got  a  good  situation.  He  was 
earning  fifty  dollars  a  month.  There  were  twenty  dollars 
in  the  letter.  He  promised  to  send  her  that  sum  every 

"  Five  dollars  a  week  !"  gasped  Marg'ret.  "  My  land  \ 
An'  I've— stole  /" 

She  sat  there  looking  at  the  money  in  her  lap.  It  was 
quite  late ;  the  children  had  been  in  bed  a  long  time. 
Finally  she  put  away  the  money,  and  went  herself.  She  did 
not  read  in  her  Bible  that  night. 


She  could  not  go  to  sleep.  It  was  bitterly  cold.  The 
old  timbers  of  the  house  cracked.  Now  and  then  there 
was  a  sharp  report  like  a  pistol.  There  was  a  pond  near 
by,  and  great  crashes  came  from  that.  Marg'ret  might 
have  been,  from  the  noise,  in  the  midst  of  a  cannonade,  to 
which  her  own  guilt  had  exposed  hen 

"  'Tain't  nothin'  but  the  frost,"  she  kept  saying  to  herself. 

About  three  o'clock  she  saw  a  red  glow  on  the  wall 
opposite  the  window. 

"  I'm  'maginin'  it,"  muttered  she.  She  would  not  turn 
over  to  look  at  the  window.  Finally  she  did.  Then  she 
sprang,  and  rushed  towards  it.  The  house  where  Mrs.  Lu 
ther  Ely  lived  was  on  fire. 

Marg'ret  threw  a  quilt  over  her  head,  unbolted  her  front 
door,  and  flew.  "  Fire !  fire  !*  she  yelled.  "  Fire  !  fire ! 
Oh,  Mis'  Ely,  where  be  you  ?  Fire !  fire  !  Sam  —  Sam 
Trask,  you're  all  burnin'  up  !  Flora  !  Oh  !  fire  !  fire  !" 

By  the  time  she  got  out  in  the  road  she  saw  black  groups 
moving  in  the  distance.  Hoarse  shouts  followed  her  cries. 
Then  the  church  bell  clanged  out. 

Flora  was  standing  in  the  road,  holding  on  to  her  chil 
dren.  They  were  all  crying.  "  Oh,  Mis'  Poole  !"  sobbed 
she,  "  ain't  it  dreadful  ?  ain't  it  awful  ?" 

"  Have  you  got  the  children  all  out  ?"  asked  Marg'ret. 

"Yes;  Sam  told  me  to  stand  here  with  'em." 

"  Where's  your  mother  ?" 

"  I  don't  know.  She's  safe.  She  waked  up  first."  The 
young  woman  rolled  her  wild  eyes  towards  the  burning 
house.  "  There  she  is !"  cried  she. 

Mrs.  Ely  was  running  out  of  the  front  door  with  a  box  in 
her  hand.  Her  son-in-law  staggered  after  her  with  a  table 
on  his  shoulder. 


"  Don't  you  go  in  again,  mother,"  said  he. 

There  were  other  men  helping  to  carry  out  the  goods, 
and  they  chimed  in.  "  No,"  cried  they  ;  "  'tain't  safe. 
Don't  you  go  in  again,  Mis'  Ely !" 

Marg'ret  ran  up  to  her.  "  Them  curtains,"  gasped  she, 
"  an'  the  parlor  carpet,  have  they  got  them  out  ?" 

"  Oh,  I  dun  know — I  dun  know !  I'm  afraid  they  ain't. 
Oh,  they  ain't  got  nothin'  out!  Everything  all  burnin'  up! 
Oh,  dear  me  !  oh,  dear !  Where  be  you  goin'  ?" 

Marg'ret  had  rushed  past  her  into  the  house.  She  was 
going  into  the  parlor,  when  a  man  caught  hold  of  her. 
"  Where  are  you  going  ?"  he  shouted.  "  Clear  out  of  this." 

"I'm  a-goin'  to  git  out  them  lace  curtains  an'  the  carpet." 

"  It  ain't  any  use.  We  stayed  in  there  just  as  long  as  we 
could,  trying  to  get  the  carpet  up ;  but  we  couldn't  stand 
it  any  longer ;  it's  chock  full  of  smoke."  The  man  shouted 
it  out,  and  pulled  her  along  with  him  at  the  same  time. 
"There!"  said  he, when  they  were  out  in  the  road;  "look 
at  that."  There  was  a  flicker  of  golden  fire  in  one  of 
the  parlor  windows.  Then  those  lace  curtains  blazed. 
"  There !"  said  the  man  again  :  "  I  told  you  it  wasn't  any 

Marg'ret  turned  on  him.  There  were  many  other  men 
within  hearing,  "  Well,  I  wouldn't  tell  of  it,"  said  she,  in 
a  loud  voice.  "  If  I  was  a  pack  of  stout,  able-bodied  men, 
and  couldn't  ha'  got  out  them  curtains  an'  that  carpet  afore 
they  burnt  up,  I  wouldn't  tell  of  it." 

Flora  and  the  children  had  been  taken  into  one  of  the 
neighboring  houses.  Mrs.  Ely  still  stood  out  in  the  freez 
ing  air,  clutching  her  box  and  wailing.  Her  son-in-law 
was  trying  hard  to  persuade  her  to  go  into  the  house  where 
her  daughter  was. 


Marg'ret  joined  them.  "  I  would  go  if  I  was  you,  Mis' 
Ely,"  said  she. 

"  No,  I  ain't  goin'.  I  don't  care  where  I  be.  I'll  stay 
right  here  in  the  road.  Oh,  dear  me !" 

"Don't  take  on  so." 

"  I  ain't  got  a  thing  left  but  jest  my  best  cap  here.  I 
did  git  that  out.  Oh,  dear  !  oh,  dear !  everything's  burnt  up 
but  jest  this  cap.  It's  all  I've  got  left.  I'll  jest  put  it  on 
an'  set  right  down  here  in  the  road  an'  freeze  to  death. 
Nobody  '11  care.  Oh,  dear !  dear !  dear !" 

"  Oh,  don't,  Mis'  Ely."  Marg'ret,  almost  rigid  herself 
with  the  cold,  put  her  hand  on  the  other  woman's  arm. 
Just  then  the  roof  of  the  burning  house  fell  in.  There  was 
a  shrill  wail  from  the  spectators. 

"  Do  come,  mother,"  Sam  begged  when  they  stood  staring 
for  a  moment. 

"Yes,  do  go,  Mis'  Ely,"  said  Marg'ret.  "You  mustn't 
feel  so." 

"  It's  easy  'nough  to  talk,"  said  Mrs.  Ely.  "  'Tain't  your 
house ;  an'  if  'twas,  you  wouldn't  had  much  to  lose — nothin' 
but  a  passel  of  old  wooden  cheers  an'  tables." 

"  I  know  it,"  said  Marg'ret. 

Finally  Mrs.  Ely  was  started,  and  Marg'ret  hurried  home. 
She  thought  suddenly  of  the  children  and  the  money.  But 
the  children  had  not  waked  in  all  the  tumult,  and  the 
money  was  where  she  had  left  it.  She  did  not  go  to  bed 
again,  but  sat  over  the  kitchen  stove  thinking,  with  her 
elbows  on  her  knees,  until  morning.  When  morning  came 
she  had  laid  out  one  plan  of  action. 

That  afternoon  she  took  some  of  her  money,  went  up  to 
Mr.  White's  store,  and  bought  some  Nottingham-lace  cur 
tains  like  the  ones  her  neighbors  had  lost.  They  were  off 
the  same  piece. 


That  evening  she  went  to  call  on  Mrs.  Ely,  and  presented 
them.  She  had  tried  to  think  that  she  might  send  the  par 
cel  anonymously — leave  it  on  the  door-step ;  but  she  could 

"'Twon't  mortify  me  so  much  as  'twill  the  other  way," 
said  she,  "  an'  I'd  ought  to  be  mortified." 

So  she  carried  the  curtains,  and  met  with  a  semblance 
of  gratitude  and  a  reality  of  amazement  and  incredulity 
which  shamed  her  beyond  measure. 

After  she  got  home  that  night  she  took  up  the  Bible,  then 
laid  it  down.  "  Here  I've  been  talkin'  and  worryin'  about 
gettin'  up  a  higher  notch,"  said  she,  "  an'  kind  of  despisin' 
Mis'  Ely  when  I  see  her  on  one.  Mis'  Ely  wouldn't  have 
stole.  I  ain't  nothin'  'side  of  her  now,  an'  I  never  can  be." 

The  scheme  which  Marg'ret  had  laid  to  confront  Mrs. 
White  was  never  carried  out.  Her  defiant  spirit  had  failed 

One  day  she  was  there  and  begged  for  work  again. 
"  I'm  willin'  to  do  'most  anything,"  said  she.  "  I'll  come 
an'  do  your  washin',  or  anything,  an'  I  don't  want  no  pay." 

Mrs.  White  was  going  away  the  next  day,  and  she  had  no 
work  to  give  the  old  woman  ;  but  she  offered  her  some  fuel 
and  some  money. 

Marg'ret  looked  at  her  scornfully.  "I've  got  money 
enough,  thank  ye,"  said  she.  "  My  son  sends  me  five  dol 
lars  a  week." 

The  other  woman  stared  at  her  with  amazement.  She 
told  her  husband  that  night  that  she  believed  Marg'ret 
Poole  was  getting  a  little  unsettled.  She  did  not  know 
what  to  make  of  her. 

Not  long  after  that  Marg'ret  went  into  Mr.  White's  store, 
and  slyly  laid  some  money  on  the  counter.  She  knew  it 


to  be  enough  to  cover  the  cost  of  the  articles  she  had  stolen. 
Then  she  went  away  and  left  it  there. 

That  night  she  went  after  her  Bible.  "  I  declare  I  will 
read  it  to-night,"  muttered  she.  "  I've  paid  for  'em."  She 
stood  eying  it.  Suddenly  she  began  to  cry.  "  Oh,  dear !" 
she  groaned  j  "  I  can't.  There  don't  anything  do  any 
good — the  lace  curtains,  nor  payin'  for  'em,  nor  nothin'.  I 
dun  know  what  I  shall  do." 

She  looked  at  the  clock.  It  was  about  nine.  "He 
won't  be  gone  yet,"  said  she.  She  stood  motionless,  think 
ing.  "If  I'm  goin'  to-night,  I've  got  to,"  she  muttered. 
Still  she  did  not  start  for  a  while  longer.  When  she  did, 
there  was  no  more  hesitation.  No  argument  could  have 
stopped  Marg'ret  Poole,  in  her  old  hood  and  shawl,  pushing 
up  the  road,  fairly  started  on  her  line  of  duty.  When  she 
got  to  the  store  she  went  in  directly.  The  heavy  door 
slammed  to,  and  the  glass  panels  clattered.  Mr.  White  was 
alone  in  the  store.  He  was  packing  up  some  goods  pre 
paratory  to  closing.  Marg'ret  went  straight  up  to  him,  and 
laid  a  package  before  him  on  the  counter. 

"  I  brought  these  things  back,"  said  she ;  "  they  belong 
to  you." 

"  Why,  what  is  it  ?"  said  Mr.  White,  wonderingly. 

"  Some  things  I  stole  last  Christmas  for  the  children." 


"I  stole 'em." 

She  untied  the  parcel,  and  began  taking  out  the  things 
one  by  one.  "  They're  all  here  but  the  candy,"  said  she  ; 
"  the  children  ate  that  up ;  an'  Aggie  bit  the  head  off  this 
pink  cat  the  other  day.  Then  they've  jammed  this  little 
horse  consider'ble.  But  I  brought  'em  all  back." 

Mr.  White  was  an  elderly,  kind-faced  man.     He  seemed 


slowly  paling  with  amazement  as  he  stared  at  her  and  the 
articles  she  was  displaying. 

"  You  say  you  stole  them  ?"  said  he. 

"  Yes ;  I  stole  'em." 

"  When  ?" 

"  The  night  afore  Christmas." 

"  Didn't  Henry  give  'em  to  you  ?" 


"Why,  I  told  him  to,"  said  Mr.  White,  slowly.  "I  did 
the  things  up  for  you  myself  that  afternoon.  I'd  seen  you 
looking  kind  of  wishful,  you  know,  and  I  thought  I'd  make 
you  a  present  of  them.  I  left  the  bundle  on  the  counter 
when  I  went  to  supper,  and  told  Henry  to  tell  you  to  take 
it,  and  I  supposed  he  did." 

Marg'ret  stood  staring.  Her  mouth  was  open,  her  hands 
were  clinched.  "  I  dun  know — what  you  mean,"  she  gasped 
out  at  length. 

"  I  mean  you  ain't  been  stealing  as  much  as  you  thought 
you  had,"  said  Mr.  White.     "  You  just  took  your  own  bun 


"  AIN'T  that  your  sister  goin'  'long  the  other  side  ot  the 
street,  Mis'  Ansel  ?" 

Mrs.  Ansel  peered,  scowling— the  sun  was  in  her  face. 
"Yes,  that's  her." 

"  She's  got  a  basket.     I  guess  she's  been  somewheres." 

"  She's  been  somewheres  after  life-everlastin'  blossoms. 
They  keep  forever,  you  know.  She's  goin'  to  make  a  pil 
low  for  old  Oliver  Weed's  asthma ;  he's  real  bad  off." 

"  So  I've  heard.  I  declare  it  makes  me  all  out  of  pa 
tience,  folks  that  have  got  as  much  money  as  them  Weeds 
have,  not  havin'  a  doctor  an'  havin'  something  done.  I 
don't  believe  his  wife  amounts  to  much  in  sickness  either." 

"  I  guess  she  don't  either.  I  could  tell  a  few  things  if  it 
wa'n't  for  talkin'  against  my  neighbors.  I  tell  Luella  if 
she's  mind  to  be  such  a  fool  as  to  slave  for  folks  that's  got 
plenty  to  do  for  themselves  with,  she  can.  I  want  to  know, 
now,  Mis'  Slate,  if  you  think  this  bonnet  is  big  enough  for 
me.  Does  it  set  fur  enough  onto  my  head  ?" 

"  It  sets  jest  as  fur  on  as  the  fashion,  Mis'  Ansel,  an'  a 
good  deal  further  on  than  some.  I  wish  you  could  see 
some  of  'em." 

"  Well,  I  s'pose  this  ain't  a  circumstance  to  some,  but  it 
looks  dreadful  odd  to  me." 


"  Of  course  it  looks  a  little  odd  at  first,  you've  wore  your 
bonnets  so  much  further  forward.  You  might  twist  up 
your  hair  a  little  higher  if  you  was  a  mind  to ;  that  would 
tip  it  forward  a  little  j  but  it  ain't  a  mite  too  fur  back  for 
the  fashion." 

"  Land !  I  can't  do  my  hair  any  different  from  what  I 
always  do  it,  bonnet  or  no  bonnet." 

"You  might  friz  your  hair  a  little  more  in  front;  the 
hair  ought  to  be  real  fluffy  an'  careless  with  this  kind  of  a 
bonnet.  Let  me  fix  it  a  little." 

Mrs.  Ansel  stood  still  before  the  glass  while  Mrs.  Slate 
fixed  her  hair.  She  smiled  a  faint,  foolish  smile,  and  her 
homely  face  had  the  same  expression  as  a  pretty  one  on 
seeing  itself  in  a  new  bonnet.  Mrs.  Ansel  had  never 
known  that  her  face  was  homely.  She  was  always  pleased 
and  satisfied  with  anything  that  was  her  own,  and  posses 
sion  was  to  her  the  law  of  beauty. 

Mrs.  Slate,  the  milliner,  was  shorter  than  she.  She 
stretched  up,  cocked  her  head,  and  twisted  her  mouth  to 
one  side  with  a  superior  air  while  she  arranged  her  cus 
tomer's  thin  front  locks.  Finally  they  lay  tossed  loose 
ly  over  her  flat,  shiny  forehead.  "There,"  said  the  milli 
ner  ;  "  that  looks  a  good  deal  better.  You  see  what  you 

Mrs.  Ansel  surveyed  herself  in  the  glass ;  her  smile  deep 
ened.  "  Yes,  it  does  look  better,  I  guess." 

"  It's  what  I  call  a  real  stylish  bonnet.  You  wouldn't 
be  ashamed  to  wear  it  to  meetin'  anywhere,  I  don't  care  if 
it  was  in  Boston  or  New  York.  I  tell  you  what  'tis,  Mis' 
Ansel,  your  sister  would  look  nice  in  this  kind  of  a  bon 
net."  The  milliner's  prominent  nose  sloped  her  profile  out 
sharply  in  the  centre,  like  the  beak  of  a  bird;  her  little 


hands  were  skinny  as  claws,  and   restless ;  she   always 
smiled,  and  her  voice  was  subdued. 

Mrs.  Ansel  still  looked  fondly  at  herself,  but  her  tone 
changed ;  she  sighed.  "  Yes,  Luella  would  look  good  in 
it,"  said  she.  "  I  don't  know  as  it  would  be  quite  so  be- 
comin'  to  her  as  it  is  to  me ;  she  never  looked  so  well  with 
anything  that  set  back ;  but  I  guess  she'd  look  pretty  good 
in  it.  But  I  don't  know  when  Luella's  had  a  new  bonnet, 
Mis'  Slate.  Of  course  she  don't  need  any,  not  goin'  to 
meetin'  or  anything." 

"  She  don't  ever  go  to  meetin',  does  she  ?" 

"  No ;  she  ain't  been  for  twenty-five  years.  I  feel  bad 
'nough  about  it.  It  seems  to  me  sometimes  if  Luella 
would  jest  have  a  pretty  new  bonnet,  an'  go  to  meetin' 
Sabbath-days  like  other  folks,  I  wouldn't  ask  for  anything 

"  It  must  be  a  dreadful  trial  to  you,  Mis'  Ansel." 

"You  don't  know  anything  about  it,  Mis'  Slate.  You 
think  there's  bows  enough  on  it,  don't  you  ?" 

"Oh,  plenty.  I  was  speakin'  to  Jennie  the  other  day 
about  your  sister — " 

"  An'  the  strings  ain't  too  long  ?" 

"Not  a  mite.  You  ain't  never  had  a  bonnet  that  be 
come  you  any  better  than  this  does,  Mis'  Ansel.  To  tell 
the  truth,  I  think  you  look  a  little  better  in  it  than  you  did 
in  your  summer  one." 

Mrs.  Ansel  began  taking  off  the  new  bonnet,  untying  the 
crisp  ribbon  strings  tenderly.  "  Well,  I  don't  know  but  it's 
all  right,"  said  she. 

"I'll  get  some  paper  an'  do  it  up,"  said  the  milliner. 
"  I  ain't  'fraid  but  what  you'll  like  it  when  you  get  used  to 
it.  You've  always  got  to  get  used  to  anything  new." 


When  Mrs.  Ansel  had  gone  down  the  street,  delicately 
holding  the  new  bonnet  in  its  soft  tissue  wrapper,  the  mil 
liner  went  into  her  little  back  room.  There  was  one  win 
dow  in  the  room,  and  a  grape-vine  hung  over  it.  A  girl 
with  fair  hair  and  a  delicately  severe  profile  sat  sewing  by 
the  window,  with  the  grape-vine  for  a  background. 

"Well,  I'm  thankful  that  woman  has  gone,"  said  the 
milliner.  "  I  never  saw  such  a  fuss." 

The  girl  said  nothing.  She  nodded  a  little  coldly,  that 
was  all. 

"  Are  you  puttin'  in  that  linin'  full  enough  ?" 

"  It's  all  she  brought." 

"Oh,  well,  you  can't  do  any  better,  then,  of  course. 
P'rhaps  I  hadn't  ought  to  speak  so  about  Mis'  Ansel ;  she's 
a  real  nice  woman ;  all  is,  she's  kind  of  tryin'  sometimes 
when  anybody  feels  nervous.  It's  as  hard  work  to  get  a 
bonnet  onto  her  head  that  suits  her  as  it  would  be  if  she 
was  a  queen ;  but  after  she  once  gets  it  she's  settled  on 
it,  that's  one  comfort.  She's  a  real  nice  woman,  and  I 
shouldn't  want  you  to  repeat  what  I  said,  Clara." 

"  I  sha'n't  say  anything."  There  was  a  kind  of  mild 
hauteur  about  the  girl  that  made  the  milliner  color  and 
twitch  embarrassingly.  She  took  a  bonnet  off  the  table 
and  fell  to  work ;  but  soon  some  one  entered  the  shop,  and 
she  arose  again. 

Presently  she  was  whispering  over  the  counter  to  the 
customer  that  she  had  Clara  Vinton  working  for  her  now ; 
that  she  was  a  nice  girl,  but  she'd  acted  dreadful  kind  of 
stiff  somehow  ever  since  the  minister  had  been  going  with 
her,  and  she  wasn't  much  company  for  her ;  but  she  didn't 
want  her  to  say  anything  about  it,  for  she  was  a  real  nice 


"I  see  Mis'  Ansel  goin'  home  with  her  new  bonnet," 
remarked  the  customer. 

"Yes;  she  jest  went  out  with  it." 

When  she  reached  home  she  found  her  sister,  Luella 
Norcross,  sitting  on  the  door-step. 

Luella  followed  her  sister  into  the  house.  It  was  quite 
a  smart  house.  Mrs.  Ansel  loved  to  furbish  it,  and  she 
had  a  little  income  of  her  own.  There  were  no  dull  colors 
anywhere  ;  the  walls  gleamed  with  gold  paper,  and  the  car 
pets  were  brilliant. 

Luella  sat  in  the  sitting-room  and  waited,  while  her  sis 
ter  went  for  a  sheet  which  she  had  promised  her.  The 
mantel-shelf  was  marble,  and  there  were  some  tall  gilded 
glass  vases  on  it.  The  stove  shone  like  a  mirror;  there 
was  a  bright  rug  before  it,  and  over  on  the  table  stood  a 
lamp,  whose  shade  was  decorated  with  roses. 

Luella  plunged  her  hand  down  into  the  mass  of  everlast 
ing  flowers  in  her  basket ;  the  soft,  healing  fragrance  came 
up  in  her  face.  "They're  packed  pretty  solid,"  she  mut 
tered.  "I  guess  there's  enough." 

When  Mrs.  Ansel  returned  with  the  sheet  she  was  frown 
ing.  "There,"  said  she,  "I  can't  hunt  no  more  to-night. 
I've  had  every  identical  thing  out  of  that  red  chist,  an' 
that's  all  I  can  seem  to  see.  I  don't  know  whether  there's 
any  more  or  not ;  if  there  is,  you'll  have  to  wait  till  I  ain't 
jest  home  from  down  street,  and  can  hunt  better'n  I  can 
to-night. " 

Luella  unfolded  the  sheet  and  examined  it.  "  Oh,  well, 
this  is  pretty  good ;  it  '11  make  three,  I  guess.  I'll  wait, 
and  maybe  you'll  come  across  the  others  some  time." 

"  You'll  have  to  wait  if  you  have  'em.  Did  you  see  the 
new  lamp  ?" 


"  Well,  no,  I  didn't  notice  it,  as  I  know  of.     That  it  ?" 

"You  ain't  been  sittin'  right  here  an'  never  seen  that 
new  lamp  ?" 

"  I  guess  I  must  have  been  lookin'  at  somethin'  else." 

"I  never  see  such  a  woman !  Anything  like  that  sittin' 
right  there  before  your  face  an'  eyes,  an'  you  never  pay  any 
attention  to  it!  I  s'pose  if  I  had  Bunker  Hill  Monument 
posted  up  here  in  the  middle  of  the  sittin'-room,  you'd  set 
right  down  under  it  an'  think,  an'  never  notice  there  was 
anything  uncommon." 

"It's  a  pretty  lamp— ain't  it?1' 

"It's  real  handsome."  Luella  arose  and  gathered  her 
shawl  about  her;  she  had  laid  the  folded  sheet  over  the 
top  of  her  basket. 

"Wait  a  minute,"  said  Mrs.  Ansel;  "you  ain't  seen  my 
new  bonnet." 

Luella  rested  her  basket  on  the  chair,  and  stood  pa 
tiently  while  her  sister  took  the  bonnet  out  of  the  wrapper 
and  adjusted  it  before  the  looking-glass. 

"  There !"  said  she,  turning  around,  "  what  do  you  think 
of  it?" 

"  I  should  think  it  was  real  pretty." 

"  You  don't  think  it  sets  too  far  back,  do  you  ?" 

"I  shouldn't  think  it  did." 

"  Shouldn't  you  rather  have  this  changeable  ribbon  than 
plain  ?" 

"Seems  to  me  I  should."  Luella's  voice  had  unmis 
takably  an  abstracted  drawl. 

Her  sister  turned  on  her.  "You  don't  act  no  more  as 
if  you  cared  anything  about  my  new  bonnet  than  you  would 
if  I  was  the  pump  with  a  new  tin  dipper  on  the  top  of  it," 
said  she.  "  If  I  was  you  I'd  act  a  little  more  like  other 


folks,  or  I'd  give  up.  It's  bad  enough  for  you  to  go  'round 
lookin'  like  a  scarecrow  yourself;  you  might  take  a  little 
interest  in  what  your  own  sister  has  to  wear." 

Luella  said  nothing ;  she  gathered  up  her  basket  of  ever 
lasting  blossoms  again. 

Her  sister  paused  and  eyed  her  fiercely  for  a  second  ; 
then  she  continued  :  "  For  my  part,  I'm  ashamed,"  said 
she — "  mortified  to  death.  It  was  only  this  afternoon  that 
I  heard  somebody  speakin'  about  it.  Here  you've  been 
wearin'  that  old  black  bonnet,  that  you  had  when  father 
died,  all  these  years,  an'  never  goin'  to  meetin'.  If  you'd 
only  have  a  decent  new  bonnet — I  don't  know  as  you'd 
want  one  that  sets  quite  so  far  back  as  this  one  —  an' 
go  to  meetin'  like  other  folks,  there'd  be  some  sense 
in  it." 

Luella,  her  basket  on  her  arm,  started  for  the  door.  Al 
though  her  shoulders  were  round,  she  carried  her  hand 
some  head  in  a  stately  fashion.  "  We've  talked  this  over 
times  enough,"  said  she. 

"  Here  you  are  roamin'  the  woods  an'  pastures  Sabbath- 
days  in  that  old  bonnet,  an'  jest  as  likely  as  not  to  meet  all 
the  folks  goin'  to  meetin'.  What  do  you  s'pose  I  care  about 
havin'  a  new  bonnet  if  I  meet  you  gettin'  along  in  that  old 
thing — my  own  sister  ?" 

Luella  marched  out  of  the  house.  When  she  was  nearly 
out  of  the  yard  her  sister  ran  to  the  door  and  called  after 
her.  "  Luella,"  said  she. 

The  stately  figure  paused,  but  did  not  turn  around. 
"What  is  it?" 

"Look  here  a  minute,"  said  Mrs.  Ansel,  mysteriously; 
l<  I  want  to  tell  you  something." 

Luella  stepped  back,  her  sister  bent  forward — she  still 


had  on  the  new  bonnet — "  I  went  into  Mis'  Plum's  on  my 
way  down  street,"  said  she,  "an'  she  said  the  minister 
wanted  to  marry  the  Vinton  girl,  but  she  won't  have  him, 
'cause  there  ain't  no  parsonage,  an'  she  don't  think  there's 
'nough  to  live  on.  Mis'  Plum  says  she  thinks  she  shows 
her  sense;  he  don't  have  but  four  hundred  a  year,  an' 
there'd  be  a  lot  of  children,  the  way  there  always  is  in 
poor  ministers'  families,  an'  nothin'  to  keep  'em  on.  Mis' 
Plum  says  she  heard  he  applied  to  the  church  to  see  if  they 
wouldn't  give  him  a  parsonage ;  he  didn't  know  but  they'd 
hire  that  house  of  yours  that's  next  to  the  meetin'-house ; 
but  they  wouldn't ;  they  say  they  can't  afford  it" 

"  I  shouldn't  think  four  hundred  dollars  was  much  if 
preachin'  was  worth  anything,"  remarked  Luella. 

"  Oh,  well,  it  does  very  well  for  you  to  talk  when  you 
don't  give  anything  for  preachin'." 

Luella  again  went  out  of  the  yard.  She  was  in  the 
street  when  her  sister  called  her  again. 

"Look  'round  here  a  minute." 

Luella  looked. 

"  Do  you  think  it  sets  too  far  back?" 

"  No,  I  don't  think  it  does,"  Luella  answered,  loudly, 
then  she  kept  on  down  the  road.  She  had  not  far  to  go. 
The  house  where  she  lived  stood  at  the  turn  of  the  road, 
on  a  gentle  rise  of  ground ;  next  to  it  was  the  large  un 
occupied  cottage  which  she  owned ;  next  to  that  was  the 
church.  Luella  lived  in  the  old  Norcross  homestead  ;  her 
grandfather  had  built  it.  It  was  one  of  those  old  build 
ings  which  aped  the  New  England  mansion-houses  without 
once  approaching  their  solid  state.  It  settled  unevenly 
down  into  its  place.  Its  sparse  front  yard  was  full  of  ever 
greens,  lilac  bushes,  and  phlox  j  its  windows,  gleaming  with 


green  lights,  were  awry,  and  all  its  white  clapboards  were 
out  of  plumb. 

Luella  went  around  to  the  side  door :  the  front  one  was 
never  used — indeed,  it  was  swollen  and  would  not  open — 
and  the  front  walk  was  green.  The  side  door  opened  into 
a  little  square  entry.  On  one  side  was  the  sitting-room,  on 
the  other  the  kitchen.  Luella  went  into  the  kitchen,  and 
an  old  woman  rose  up  from  a  chair  by  the  stove.  She  was 
small  as  a  child,  but  her  muscles  were  large,  her  flaxen  hair 
was  braided  lightly,  her  round  blue  eyes  were  filmy,  and 
she  grinned  constantly  without  speaking. 

"  Got  the  cleanin'  done,  'Liza  ?"  asked  Luella.  The  old 
woman  nodded,  and  her  grin  widened.  She  was  called 
foolish;  her  humble  capabilities  could  not  diffuse  them 
selves,  but  were  strong  in  only  one  direction  :  she  could 
wash  and  scrub,  and  in  that  she  took  delight.  Luella  har 
bored  her,  fed  and  clothed  her,  and  let  her  practise  her  one 
little  note  of  work. 

After  Luella  had  taken  off  her  bonnet  and  shawl,  she 
went  to  work  preparing  supper.  The  old  woman  was  not 
smart  enough  to  do  that.  She  sat  watching  her.  When 
Luella  set  the  tea-pot  on  the  stove  and  cut  the  bread,  she 
fairly  crowed  like  a  baby. 

"  Maria  offered  me  a  piece  of  her  new  apple-pie  an'  a 
piece  of  sage-cheese,"  remarked  Luella,  "but  I  wouldn't 
take  it.  If  I'm  a  mind  to  stint  myself  and  pay  up  Joe 
Perry's  rent  it's  nobody's  business,  but  I  ain  t  goin'  to  be 
mean  enough  to  live  on  other  folks  to  do  it." 

The  old  woman  grinned  as  she  ate.  Luella  had  fallen 
into  the  habit  of  talking  quite  confidentially  to  her,  unre- 
ciprocative  as  she  was. 

After  supper  Luella  put  away  the  tea-things^  -that  was 


too  fine  work  for  the  old  woman — then  she  lighted  her  sit 
ting-room  lamp,  and  sat  down  there  to  make  the  case  for 
the  life-everlasting  pillow.  The  old  woman  crept  in  after 
her,  and  sat  by  the  stove  in  a  little  chair,  holding  her  sod 
den  hands  in  her  lap. 

"  I  hope  to  goodness  this  pillow  will  help  him  some," 
said  Luella.  "They're  real  good  for  asthma.  Mother 
used  to  use  'em."  She  sewed  with  strong  jerks.  The  old 
man  for  whom  she  was  making  the  pillow  was  rich  in  the 
village  sense,  and  miserly.  Ill  as  he  sometimes  was,  he 
and  his  wife  would  not  call  in  a  doctor  on  account  of  the 
expense ;  they  scarcely  kept  warm  and  fed  themselves. 
Public  opinion  was  strong  against  them ;  very  little  pity 
was  given  to  the  feeble  old  man  ;  but  Luella  viewed  it  all 
with  a  broad  charity  which  was  quite  past  the  daily  horizon 
of  the  village  people.  "  I  don't  care  if  they  are  rich  an* 
able  to  buy  things  themselves,  we  hadn't  ought  to  let  'em 
suffer,"  she  argued.  "Mebbe  they  can't  help  bein'  close 
any  more'n  we  can  help  somethin'  we've  got.  It's  a  failin', 
and  folks  ought  to  help  folks  with  failin's,  I  don't  care  what 
they  are."  So  Luella  Norcross  made  broth  and  gruel,  and 
carried  them  in  to  old  Oliver  Weed,  and  even  gave  him 
some  of  her  dry  cedar-wood ;  and  people  said  she  was  as 
foolish  as  old  Eliza.  All  the  burly  whining  tramps,  and 
beseeching  pedlars  of  unsalable  wares,  who  came  to  the 
village,  flocked  to  her  door,  sure  of  a  welcome. 

On  a  summer's  day  the  tramps  sat  on  her  door-step,  and 
ate  their  free  lunches,  in  winter  they  ate  them  comfortably 
by  the  kitchen  fire.  Many  a  time  her  barn  and  warm  hay 
mow  harbored  them  over  a  cold  stormy  night. 

"  Might  jest  as  well  stick  out  a  sign,  *  Tramps'  Tavern,' 
on  the  barn,  an'  done  with  it,"  Mrs.  Ansel  said.  "  If  you 


don't  get  set  on  fire  some  night  by  them  miserable  sneakin' 
tramps,  I  miss  my  guess." 

But  she  never  did,  and  the  tramp  slouched  peaceably 
out  of  her  yard,  late  in  the  frosty  morning,  after  she  had 
given  him  a  good  breakfast  in  the  warm  kitchen. 

There  was  an  old  pedlar  of  essences  who  came  regularly, 
and  she  always  bought  of  him,  although  his  essences  were 
poor,  and  her  cake  scantily  flavored  in  consequence.  Him 
she  often  lodged  in  her  nice  spare  chamber,  although  she 
distrusted  his  cleanliness,  and  she  and  old  Eliza  had  much 
scrubbing  to  do  thereafter. 

Luella  even  traded  faithfully  with  a  sly- eyed  Italian 
woman,  who  went  about,  bent  to  one  side  by  a  great  basket 
of  vases  and  plaster  images.  "  You'd  ought  to  be  ashamed 
of  yourself  encouragin'  such  folks,"  Mrs.  Ansel  remon 
strated,  "  she's  jest  as  miserable  an'  low  as  she  can  be." 

"  I  don't  care  how  low  she  is,"  said  Luella.  "  She's 
keepin'  one  commandment  sellin'  plaster  images  to  get 
her  livin',  an'  I'm  a-goin'  to  help  her." 

And  Luella  crowded  the  little  plaster  flower  girls  and 
fruit  boys  together  on  the  sitting-room  shelf,  to  make  room 
for  the  new  little  shepherdess. 

This  very  day  she  had  been  visited  by  an  old  broken- 
down  minister,  who  often  stood  at  her  door,  tall  and  trem 
ulous  in  his  shiny  black  broadcloth,  with  a  heavy  bag  of 
undesirable  books.  There  were  some  hanging  shelves  in 
Luella's  sitting-room  which  were  filled  with  these  books, 
but  to-day  she  had  bought  another. 

"  There  ain't  room  on  the  shelves  for  another  one,  but  I 
s'pose  I  can  stow  it  away  somewhere,"  she  told  Eliza,  after 
he  had  gone.  "I've  give  away  all  I  can  seem  to.  The 
book  ain't  very  interestin'." 


Luella  usually  lodged  the  book  agent  over  night,  when 
he  came  to  the  village,  although  he  also  had  his  failings. 
Many  a  night  she  was  awakened  by  the  creaking  of  the 
cellar-stairs,  when  the  old  minister  crept  down  stealthily, 
a  lamp  balanced  unsteadily  in  his  shaking  hand,  to  the 
cider-barrel.  She  would  listen  anxiously  until  she  heard 
him  return  to  his  room,  then  get  up  and  look  about  and 
sniff  for  fire. 

There  was  not  a  woman  in  the  village  who  had  so  many 
blessings,  worth  whatever  they  might  be,  offered  to  her.  If 
she  was  not  in  full  orthodox  flavor  among  the  respectable 
part  of  the  town,  her  fame  was  bright  among  the  poor 
and  maybe  lawless  element,  whom  she  befriended.  They 
showed  it  by  their  shuffling  footprints  thick  in  her  yard, 
and  the  frequency  of  their  petitions  at  her  door.  It  was 
the  only  way  in  which  they  could  show  it.  The  poor  can 
show  their  love  and  gratitude  only  by  the  continual  out- 
reaching  of  their  hands. 

This  evening,  while  Luella  sewed  on  her  life-everlasting 
pillow,  and  the  old  woman  sat  grinning  hi  the  corner,  there 
was  a  step  in  the  yard.  Luella  laid  down  her  work,  and 
looked  at  Eliza,  and  listened.  The  step  came  steadily  up  the 
drive ;  the  shoes  squeaked.  Luella  took  up  her  work  again. 

"  I  know  who  'tis,"  said  she.  "  It's  the  book  man  ;  his 
shoes  squeak  just  that  way,  an'  I  told  him  he'd  better  come 
back  here  to-night  an'  stay  over.  It  saves  him  payin'  for 

There  came  a  sharp  knock  on  the  side  door. 

"  You  go  let  him  in,  'Liza,"  said  Luella. 

The  old  woman  patted  out  of  the  room.  Presently  she 
looked  in  again,  and  her  grin  was  a  broad  laugh.  "  It's 
the  minister,"  she  chuckled. 

350  LIFE-E  VERLAS  T1N\ 

Luella  arose  and  went  herself.  There  in  the  entry  stood 
a  young  man,  short  and  square-shouldered,  with  a  pleasant 
boyish  face.  He  looked  bravely  at  Luella,  and  tried  to 
speak  with  suave  fluency,  but  his  big  hands  twitched  at  the 
ends  of  his  short  coat  sleeves. 

"Good-evening,  Miss  Norcross,  good-evening,"  said  he. 

"  Oh,  it's  you,  Mr.  Sands  !"  said  Luella.  "  Good-evenin'. 
Walk  in  an'  be  seated." 

Luella  herself  was  a  little  stiff.  She  pushed  forward  the 
big  black-covered  rocking-chair  for  the  minister,  then  she 
sat  down  herself,  and  took  up  her  sewing. 

"  It  is  a  charming  evening,"  remarked  the  minister. 

"I  thought  it  seemed  real  pleasant  when  I  looked  out 
after  supper,"  said  Luella. 

She  and  the  minister  spoke  about  the  conditions  of 
several  of  the  parish  invalids,  they  spoke  about  a  fire 
and  a  funeral  which  had  taken  place  that  week,  and  all 
the  time  there  was  a  constraint  in  their  manners.  Finally 
there  was  a  pause ;  then  the  minister  burst  out.  A  blush 
flamed  out  to  the  roots  of  his  curly  hair.  He  tried  to  make 
his  voice  casual,  but  it  slipped  into  his  benediction  ca 

"  I  don't  see  you  at  church  very  often,  Miss  Norcross," 
said  he. 

"  You  don't  see  me  at  all,"  returned  Luella. 

The  minister  tried  to  smile.  "  Well,  maybe  that  is  a  lit 
tle  nearer  the  truth,  Miss  Norcross." 

Luella  sewed  a  few  stitches  on  her  life-everlasting  pillow ; 
then  she  laid  it  down  in  her  lap,  straightened  herself,  and 
looked  at  the  minister.  Her  deep-set  blue  eyes  seemed  to 
see  every  atom  of  him ;  her  noble  forehead  even,  from 
which  the  gray  hair  was  pulled  well  back,  and  which  was 


scarcely  lined,  seemed  to  front  him  with  a  kind  of  visual 
power  of  its  own. 

"I  may  just  as  well  tell  you  the  truth,  Mr.  Sands,"  said 
she,  "  an'  we  may  just  as  well  come  to  the  point  at  once. 
I  know  what  you've  come  for  j  my  sister  told  me  you  was 
comin'  to  see  about  my  not  going  to  meetin'.  Well,  I'll 
tell  you  once  for  all,  I'm  just  as  much  obliged  to  you,  but 
it  won't  do  any  good.  I've  made  up  my  mind  I  ain't  goin' 
to  meetin',  an'  I've  got  good  reasons." 

"Would  you  mind  giving  them,  Miss  Norcross?" 

"  I  ain't  going  to  argue." 

"  But  just  giving  me  a  few  of  your  reasons  wouldn't  be  ar 
guing."  The  young  man  had  now  acquired  the  tone  which 
he  wished.  He  smiled  on  Luella  with  an  innocent  patronage, 
and  crossed  his  legs.  Luella  thought  he  looked  very  young. 

"  The  fact  is,"  said  she,  "  I'm  not  a  believer,  an'  I  won't 
be  a  hypocrite.  That's  all  there  is  about  it." 

The  minister  looked  at  her.  It  was  the  first  time  he  had 
encountered  an  outspoken  doubter,  and  it  was  for  a  minute 
to  him  as  if  he  faced  one  of  the  veritable  mediaeval  dragons 
of  the  church.  This  simple  and  untutored  village  agnostic 
filled  him  with  amazement  and  terror.  When  he  spoke  it 
was  not  to  take  up  the  argument  for  the  doctrine,  but  to 
turn  its  gold  side,  as  it  were,  towards  his  opponent,  in 
order  to  persuade  belief.  "  Your  soul's  salvation — do  you 
never  think  of  that?"  he  queried,  solemnly.  "You  know 
heaven  and  your  soul's  salvation  depend  upon  it." 

"  I  ain't  never  worried  much  about  my  soul's  salvation," 
said  Luella.  "  I've  had  too  many  other  souls  to  think 
about.  An'  it  seems  to  me  I'd  be  dreadful  piggish  to  make 
goin'  to  heaven  any  reason  for  believin'  a  thing  that  ain't 


The  minister  made  a  rally ;  he  remembered  one  of  the 
things  he  had  planned  to  say.  "  But  you've  read  the  New 
Testament,  Miss  Norcross,"  said  he,  "  and  you  must  admit 
that  *  never  man  spake  like  this  man.'  When  you  read  the 
words  of  Christ  you  must  see  that  there  was  never  any  man 
like  him." 

"  I  know  there  wa'n't,"  said  Luella,  "  that's  jest  the  rea 
son  why  the  whole  story  don't  seem  sensible." 

The  minister  gave  a  kind  of  a  gasp.  "  But  you  believe 
in  God,  don't  you,  Miss  Norcross  ?"  said  he. 

"  I  ain't  a  fool,"  replied  Luella.  She  arose  with  a  de 
cided  air.  "  Do  you  like  apples,  Mr.  Sands  ?"  said  she. 

The  minister  gasped  again,  and  assented. 

"  I've  got  some  real  nice  sweet  ones  and  some  Porters," 
said  Luella,  in  a  cheerful  tone,  "  an'  I'm  goin'  to  get  you  a 
plate  of  'em,  Mr.  Sands." 

Luella  went  out  and  got  the  plate  of  apples,  and  the 
minister  began  eating  them.  He  felt  uneasily  that  it 
was  his  duty  to  reopen  the  argument.  "  If  you  believe  in 
God—"  he  began. 

But  Luella  shook  her  head  at  him  as  if  she  were  his 
mother.  "  I'd  rather  not  argue  any  more,"  said  she.  "  Try 
that  big  Porter ;  I  guess  it's  meller."  And  the  minister  ate 
his  apples  with  enjoyment.  Luella  filled  his  pockets  with 
some  when  he  went  home.  "  He  seems  like  a  real  good 
young  man,"  she  said  to  old  Eliza  after  the  minister  had 
gone;  "  an'  that  Vinton  girl  would  make  him  jest  the  kind 
of  a  wife  he'd  ought  to  have.  She's  real  up  an'  comin',  an' 
she'd  prop  him  up  firm  on  his  feet.  I  s'pose  if  I  let  him 
have  that  house  he'd  be  tickled  'most  to  death.  I'd  kind 
of  'lotted  on  the  rent  of  it,  but  I  s'pose  I  could  get  along." 

The  old  woman  grinned  feebly.    She  had  been  asleep  in 


her  corner,  and  her  blue  eyes  looked  dimmer  than  ever. 
She  comprehended  not  a  word  j  but  that  did  not  matter  to 
Luella,  who  had  fallen  into  the  habit  of  utilizing  her  as 
a  sort  of  spiritual  lay-figure  upon  which  to  drape  her  own 

The  next  morning,  about  nine  o'clock,  she  carried  the 
pillow,  which  she  had  finished  and  stuffed  with  the  life- 
everlasting  blossoms,  to  old  Oliver  Weed's.  The  house 
stood  in  a  wide  field,  and  there  were  no  other  houses  very 
near.  The  grass  was  wet  with  dew,  and  all  the  field  was 
sweet  in  the  morning  freshness.  Luella,  carrying  her  life- 
everlasting  pillow  before  her,  went  over  the  fragrant  path 
to  the  back  door.  She  noticed  as  she  went  that  the  great 
barn  doors  were  closed. 

"  Queer  the  barn  ain't  open,"  she  thought  to  herself.  "  I 
wonder  what  John  Gleason's  about,  late  as  this  in  the 

John  Gleason  was  old  Oliver  Weed's  hired  man.  He  had 
been  a  tramp.  Luella  herself  had  fed  him,  and  let  him  sleep 
off  a  drunken  debauch  in  her  barn  once.  People  had  won 
dered  at  Oliver  Weed's  hiring  him,  but  he  had  to  pay  him 
much  less  than  the  regular  price  for  farm  hands. 

Luella  heard  the  cows  low  in  the  barn  as  she  opened  the 
kitchen  door.  "Where — did  all  that— blood  come  from?" 
said  she. 

She  began  to  breathe  in  quick  gasps ;  she  stood  clutching 
her  pillow,  and  looking.  Then  she  called :  "  Mr.  Weed  ! 
Mr.  Weed !  Where  be  you  ?  Mis'  Weed !  Is  anything  the 
matter  ?  Mis'  Weed  !"  The  silence  seemed  to  beat  against 
her  ears.  She  went  across  the  kitchen  to  the  bedroom. 
Here  and  there  she  held  back  her  dress.  She  reached  the 
bedroom  door,  and  looked  in. 


Luella  pressed  back  across  the  kitchen  into  the  yard.  She 
went  out  into  the  road,  and  turned  towards  the  village.  She 
still  carried  the  life-everlasting  pillow,  but  she  carried  it  as 
if  her  arms  and  that  were  all  stone.  She  met  a  woman 
whom  she  knew,  and  the  woman  spoke  ;  but  Luelja  did  not 
notice  her ;  she  kept  on.  The  woman  stopped  and  looked 
after  her. 

Luella  went  to  the  house  where  the  sheriff  lived,  and 
knocked.  The  sheriff  himself  opened  the  door.  He  was 
a  large,  pleasant  man.  He  began  saying  something  facetious 
about  her  being  out  calling  early,  but  Luella  stopped  him. 

"  You'd — better  go  up  to  the — Weed  house,"  said  she,  in 
a  dry  voice.  "  There's  some — trouble." 

The  sheriff  started.    "  Why,  what  do  you  mean,  Luella  ?" 

"The  old  man  an'  his  wife  are — both  killed.  I  went  in 
there  to  carry  this,  an' — I  saw  them." 

"  My  God !"  said  the  sheriff.  He  caught  up  his  hat,  and 
started  on  a  run  to  the  barn  for  his  horse. 

The  sheriff's  wife  and  daughter  pressed  forward  and  plied 
Luella  with  horrified  questions ;  they  urged  her  to  come  in 
and  rest,  she  looked  so  pale ;  but  she  said  little,  and  turned 
towards  home.  Flying  teams  passed  her  on  the  road ;  men 
rushed  up  behind  her  and  questioned  her.  When  she 
reached  the  Weed  house  the  field  seemed  black  with  people. 
When  she  got  to  her  own  house  she  went  into  the  sitting- 
room  and  sat  down.  She  felt  faint.  She  did  not  think  of 
lying  down  \  she  never  did  in  the  daytime.  She  leaned  her 
head  back  in  her  chair  and  turned  her  face  towards  the  yard. 
Everything  out  there,  the  trees,  the  grass,  the  crowding  ranks 
of  daisies,  the  next  house,  looked  strange,  as  if  another  light 
than  that  of  the  sun  was  on  them.  But  she  somehow  no 
ticed  even  then  how  a  blind  on  the  second  floor  of  the  house 


was  shut  that  had  been  open.  "  I  wonder  how  that  come 
shut?"  she  muttered,  feebly. 

Pretty  soon  her  sister,  Mrs.  Ansel,  came  hurrying  in.  She 
was  wringing  her  hands.  "  Oh,  ain't  it  awful  ?  ain't  it  aw 
ful  ?"  she  cried.  "  Good  land,  Luella,  how  you  look !  You'll 
faint  away.  I'm  goin'  to  mix  you  up  some  peppermint  be 
fore  I  do  another  thing." 

Mrs.  Ansel  made  a  cup  of  hot  peppermint  tea  for  her,  and 
she  drank  it. 

"  Now  tell  me  all  about  it,"  said  Mrs.  Ansel.  "  What  did 
you  see  first  ?  What  was  you  goin'  in  there  for  ?" 

"  To  carry  the  pillow,"  said  Luella,  pointing  to  it.  "  I 
can't  talk  about  it,  Maria." 

Mrs.  Ansel  went  over  to  the  lounge  and  took  up  the  pil 
low.  "  Mercy  sakes !  what's  that  on  it  ?"  she  cried,  in 

"  I — s'pose  I — hit  it  against  the  wall  somehow,"  replied 
Luella.  "  I  can't  talk  about  it,  Maria." 

Mrs.  Ansel  could  not  learn  much  from  her  sister.  Pres 
ently  she  left,  and  lingered  slowly  past  the  Weed  house,  to 
which  her  curiosity  attracted  her,  but  which  her  terror  and 
horror  would  not  let  her  approach  closely. 

The  peppermint  revived  Luella  a  little.  After  a  while 
she  got  up  and  put  on  the  potatoes  for  dinner.  Old  Eliza 
was  scrubbing  the  floor.  When  dinner  was  ready  she  ate 
all  the  potatoes,  and  Luella  sat  back  and  looked  at  her. 

All  the  afternoon  people  kept  coming  to  the  house  and 
questioning  her,  and  exclaiming  with  horror.  It  seemed  to 
Luella  that  her  own  horror  was  beyond  exclamations.  There 
was  no  doubt  in  the  public  mind  that  the  murderer  was  the 
hired  man,  John  Gleason.  He  was  nowhere  to  be  found  ,- 
the  constables  and  detectives  were  searching  fiercely  for  him. 


That  night  when  Luella  went  to  bed  she  stood  at  her 
chamber  window  a  minute,  looking  out.  It  was  bright 
moonlight.  Her  window  faced  the  unoccupied  house,  and 
she  noticed  again  how  the  blind  was  shut. 

"  It's  queer,"  she  thought,  "  for  that  blind  wouldn't  stay 
shut ;  the  fastenin'  wa'n't  good."  As  she  looked,  the  blind 
swung  slowly  open.  "  The  wind  is  jest  swingin'  it  back  and 
forth,"  she  thought.  Then  she  saw  distinctly  the  chamber 
window  open,  a  dark  arm  thrust  out,  and  the  blind  closed 

" He's  in  there"  said  Luella.  She  had  put  out  her  lamp. 
She  went  down-stairs  in  the  dark,  and  made  sure  that  all  the 
doors  and  windows  were  securely  fastened.  She  even  put 
chairs  and  tables  against  them.  Then  she  went  back  to  her 
chamber,  dressed  herself,  and  watched  the  next  house.  She 
did  not  stir  until  morning.  The  next  day  there  was  a  cold 
rain.  The  search  for  John  Gleason  continued,  the  whole 
village  was  out,  and  strange  officials  were  driving  through 
the  streets.  Everybody  thought  that  the  murderer  had  es 
caped  to  Canada,  taking  with  him  the  money  which  he  had 
stolen  from  the  poor  old  man's  strong-box  under  his  bed. 

All  the  day  long  Luella  watched  the  next  house  through 
the  gray  drive  of  the  rain.  About  sunset  she  packed  a 
basket  with  food,  stole  across  to  the  house,  and  set  it  in  the 
corner  of  the  door.  She  got  back  before  a  soul  passed  on 
the  road.  She  had  set  Eliza  at  a  task  away  from  the 

The  moon  rose  early.  After  supper  Luella  sat  again  in 
her  chamber  without  any  lamp  and  watched.  About  nine 
o'clock  she  saw  the  door  of  the  next  house  swing  open  a  lit 
tle,  and  the  basket  was  drawn  in. 

"  He's  in  there"  said  Luella.  She  went  down  and  fastened 


up  the  house  as  she  had  done  the  night  before.  Old  Eliza 
went  peacefully  to  bed,  and  she  watched  again.  She  put  a 
coverlid  over  her  shoulders,  and  sat,  all  huddled  up,  peer 
ing  out.  The  rain  had  stopped  ;  the  wall  of  the  next  house 
shone  like  silver  in  the  moonlight.  She  watched  until  the 
moon  went  down  and  until  daylight  came ;  then  she  went  to 
bed,  and  slept  an  hour. 

After  breakfast  that  morning  she  set  old  Eliza  at  a  task, 
and  went  up  to  her  chamber  again.  She  sank  down  on  her 
knees  beside  the  bed.  "  O  God,"  said  she,  "  have  I  got  to 
give  him  up — have  I  ?  Have  I  got  to  give  him  up  to  be 
hung  ?  What's  goin'  to  become  of  him  then  ?  Where'll  he 
go  to  when  he's  been  so  awful  wicked  ?  Oh,  what  shall  I 
do  ?  Here  he  is  a-takin'  my  vittles,  an'  comin'  to  my  house, 
an'  a-trustin'  me  !"  Luella  lifted  her  arms  ;  her  face  was  all 
distorted.  She  seemed  to  see  the  whole  crew  of  her  pitiful 
dependents  crowding  around  her,  and  pleading  for  the  poor 
man  who  had  thrown  himself  upon  her  mercy.  She  saw  the 
old  drunken  essence  man,  the  miserable  china  women,  all 
the  wretched  and  vicious  tramps  and  drunkards  whom  she 
had  befriended,  pressing  up  to  her,  and  pleading  her  to  keep 
faith  with  their  poor  brother. 

The  thought  that  John  Gleason  had  trusted  her,  had  taken 
that  food  when  he  knew  that  she  might  in  consequence  be 
tray  him  to  the  gallows,  filled  her  with  a  pity  that  was  al 
most  tenderness,  and  appealed  strongly  to  her  loyalty  and 

On  the  other  hand,  she  remembered  what  she  had  seen  in 
the  Weed  house.  The  poor  old  man  and  woman  seemed 
calling  to  her  for  help.  She  reflected  upon  what  she  had 
heard  the  day  before :  that  the  detectives  were  after  John 
Gleason  for  another  murder ;  this  was  not  the  first.  She 


called  to  mind  the  danger  that  other  helpless  people  would 
be  in  if  this  murderer  were  at  large.  Would  not  their  blood 
be  upon  her  hands?  She  called  to  mind  the  horrible  de 
tails  of  what  she  had  seen,  the  useless  cruelty,  and  the  hor 
ror  of  it. 

Once  she  arose  with  a  jerk,  and  got  her  bonnet  out  of  the 
closet.  Then  she  put  it  back,  and  threw  herself  down  by 
the  bed  again.  "  Oh  !"  she  groaned,  "  I  don't  know  what 
to  do !" 

Luella  shut  herself  in  her  own  room  nearly  all  day.  She 
went  down  and  got  the  meals,  then  returned.  The  sodden 
old  woman  did  not  notice  anything  unusual.  At  dusk  she 
watched  her  chance,  and  carried  over  more  food,  and  she 
watched  and  saw  it  taken  in  again. 

This  night  she  did  not  lock  the  house.  All  she  fastened 
was  old  Eliza's  bedroom  door ;  that  she  locked  securely,  and 
hid  the  key.  All  the  other  doors  and  windows  were  unfast 
ened,  and  when  she  went  up-stairs  she  set  the  side  door 
partly  open.  She  set  her  lamp  on  the  bureau,  and  looked 
at  her  face  in  the  glass.  It  was  white  and  drawn,  and  there 
was  a  desperate  look  in  her  deep-set  eyes.  "  Mebbe  it's  the 
last  time  I  shall  ever  see  my  face,"  said  she.  "  I  don't 
know  but  I'm  awful  wicked  to  give  him  the  chance  to  do 
another  murder,  but  I  can't  give  him  up.  If  he  comes  in 
an'  kills  me,  I  sha'n't  have  to,  an'  maybe  he'll  jest  take  the 
money  an'  go,  an'  then  I  sha'n't  have  to." 

Luella  had  two  or  three  hundred  dollars  in  an  old  wallet 
between  her  feather-bed  and  the  mattress.  She  took  it  out 
and  opened  it,  spreading  the  bills.  Then  she  laid  it  on  the 
bureau.  She  took  a  gold  ring  off  her  finger,  and  unfastened 
her  ear-rings  and  laid  them  beside  it,  and  a  silver  watch  that 
had  belonged  to  her  father.  Down-stairs  she  had  arranged 


the  teaspoons  and  a  little  silver  cream-jug  in  full  sight  on 
the  kitchen  table. 

After  the  preparations  were  all  made  she  blew  out  her 
lamp,  folded  back  the  bed-spread,  lay  down  in  her  clothes, 
and  pulled  it  over  her  smoothly.  She  folded  her  hands  and 
lay  there.  There  was  not  a  bolt  or  a  bar  between  her  and 
the  murderer  next  door.  She  closed  her  eyes  and  lay  still. 
Every  now  and  then  she  thought  she  heard  him  down-stairs  ; 
but  the  night  wore  on,  and  he  did  not  come.  At  daylight 
Luella  arose.  She  was  so  numb  and  weak  that  she  could 
scarcely  stand.  She  put  away  the  money  and  the  jewelry, 
then  she  went  down-stairs  and  kindled  the  kitchen  fire  and 
got  breakfast.  The  silver  was  on  the  table  just  as  she  had 
left  it,  the  door  half  open,  and  the  cold  morning  wind  com 
ing  in.  Luella  gave  one  great  sob  when  she  shut  the  door. 
"He  must  have  seen  it,"  she  said,  "but  he  wouldn't  do 
nothin'  to  hurt  me,  an1  I've  got  to  give  him  up." 

She  said  no  more  after  that ;  she  was  quite  calm  getting 
breakfast.  After  the  meal  was  finished  and  the  dishes 
cleared  away  she  told  old  Eliza  to  put  on  her  other  dress 
and  her  bonnet  and  shawl.  She  had  made  up  her  mind  to 
take  the  old  creature  with  her ;  she  was  afraid  to  leave  her 
alone  in  the  house,  with  the  murderer  next  door  to  spy  out 
her  own  departure. 

When  the  two  women  were  ready  they  went  out  of  the 
yard,  and  Luella  felt  the  eyes  of  John  Gleason  upon  her. 
They  went  down  the  road  to  the  village,  old  Eliza  keeping 
a  little  behind  her  mistress.  Luella  aimed  straight  for  the 
sheriff's  house.  He  drove  into  the  yard  as  she  entered ;  he 
had  been  out  all  night  on  a  false  scent.  He  stopped  when 
he  saw  Luella,  and  she  came  up  to  him.  "John  Gleason  is 
in  that  vacant  house  of  mine,"  said  she.  He  caught  at  the 


reins,  but  she  stopped  him.  "You've  got  to  wait  long 
enough  to  give  me  time  to  get  home,  so  I  sha'n't  be  right  in 
the  midst  of  it,  if  you've  got  any  mercy,"  said  she,  in  a  loud, 
strained  voice.  Then  she  turned  and  ran.  She  stopped 
only  long  enough  to  tell  old  Eliza  to  follow  her  straight 
home  and  go  at  once  into  the  house.  She  ran  through  the 
village  street  like  a  girl.  People  came  to  the  windows  and 
stared  after  her.  Every  minute  she  fancied  she  heard 
wheels  behind  her ;  but  the  sheriff  did  not  come  until  after 
she  had  been  in  the  house  fifteen  minutes,  and  old  Eliza 
also  was  at  home. 

Luella  was  crouching  at  her  chamber  window,  peering 
around  the  curtain,  when  the  sheriff  and  six  men  came  into 
the  yard  and  surrounded  the  next  house.  She  had  a  wild 
hope  that  John  Gleason  might  not  be  there,  that  he  might 
have  escaped  during  the  night.  She  watched.  The  men 
entered,  there  was  the  sound  of  a  scuffle  and  loud  voices, 
and  then  she  saw  John  Gleason  dragged  out. 

Presently  Luella  went  down-stairs ;  she  had  to  keep  hold 
of  the  banister.  Old  Eliza  was  gaping  at  the  kitchen  win 
dow.  "  Come  away  from  that  window,  'Liza,"  said  Luella, 
"and  wash  up  the  floor  right  away."  Then  Luella  began 
cleaning  potatoes  and  beets  for  dinner. 

The  next  Sunday  Luella  went  to  church  for  the  first  time 
in  twenty-five  years.  Old  Eliza  also  went  shuffling  smil 
ingly  up  the  aisle  behind  her  mistress.  Everybody  stared. 
Luella  paused  at  her  sister's  pew,  and  her  brother-in-law 
sat  a  little  while  looking  at  her  before  he  arose  to  let  her  in. 

Mrs.  Ansel  was  quite  flushed.  She  pulled  her  new  bon 
net  farther  on  her  head  ;  she  glanced  with  agitated  hauteur 
across  her  sister  at  old  Eliza ;  then  her  eyes  rolled  towards 
her  sister's  bonnet. 


Presently  she  touched  Luella.  "  What  possessed  you  to 
bring  her,  an'  come  out  lookin'  so  ?"  she  whispered.  "  Why 
didn't  you  get  a  new  bonnet  before  you  came  to  meetin'  ?" 

Luella  looked  at  her  in  a  bewildered  fashion  for  a  minute, 
then  she  set  her  face  towards  the  pulpit.  She  listened  to 
the  sermon ;  it  had  in  it  some  innocent  youthful  conceits, 
and  also  considerable  honest  belief  and  ardent  feeling. 
The  minister  saw  Luella,  and  thought  with  a  flush  of  pride 
that  his  arguments  had  convinced  her.  The  night  before, 
he  had  received  a  note  from  her  tendering  him  the  use  of 
her  vacant  house.  After  the  service  he  pressed  forward  to 
speak  to  her.  He  thanked  her  for  her  note,  said  that  he 
was  glad  to  see  her  out  to  meeting,  and  shook  her  hand 
vehemently.  Then  he  joined  Clara  Vinton  quite  openly, 
and  the  two  walked  on  together.  There  was  quite  a  little 
procession  passing  up  the  street.  The  way  led  between 
pleasant  cottages  with  the  front  yards  full  of  autumn  flowers 
— asters  and  pansies  and  prince's-feathers.  Presently  they 
passed  a  wide  stretch  of  pasture-land  where  life-everlasting 
flowers  grew.  Luella  walked  with  an  old  woman  with  a 
long,  saintly  face  \  old  Eliza  followed  after. 

Luella's  face  looked  haggard  and  composed  under  her 
flimsy  black  crape  frillings.  She  kept  her  eyes,  with  a 
satisfied  expression,  upon  the  young  minister  and  the  tall 
girl  who  walked  beside  him  with  a  grave,  stately  air. 

"  I  hear  they're  goin'  to  be  married,"  whispered  the  old 

"  I  guess  they  are,"  replied  Luella. 

Just  then  Clara  turned  her  face,  and  her  fine,  stern  profile 

"  She'll  make  him  a  good  wife,  I  guess,"  said  the  old 
woman.  She  turned  to  Luella,  and  her  voice  had  an  in- 


describably  shy  and  caressing  tone.  "  I  was  real  glad  to 
see  you  to  meetin'  to-day,"  she  whispered.  "  I  knew  you'd 
feel  like  comin'  some  time;  I  always  said  you  would." 
She  flushed  all  over  her  soft  old  face  as  she  spoke. 

Luella  also  flushed  a  little,  but  her  voice  was  resolute. 
"  I  ain't  got  much  to  say  about  it,  Mis'  Alden,"  said  she, 
"but  I'm  goin'  to  say  this  much — it  ain't  no  more'n  right  I 
should,  though  I  don't  believe  in  a  lot  of  palaver  about 
things  like  this — I've  made  up  my  mind  that  I'm  goin'  to 
believe  in  Jesus  Christ.  I  ain't  never,  but  I'm  goin'  to  now, 
for" — Luella's  voice  turned  shrill  with  passion — " I  don't 
see  any  other  way  out  of  it  J or  John  Gleason  J" 


"  DON'T  stan'  there  lookin'  at  me  that  way,  Charlotte.'11 

"  Why,  Aunt  Lucinda  !" 

Lucinda  Moss  put  her  slender  red  ringers  over  her  face. 
"I  —  didn't  think  it  was — anything  out  of  the — way,"  she 
sniffed,  weakly. 

Charlotte  stood  before  her  as  relentless  and  handsome  as 
an  accusing  angel.  Her  full,  strong  young  figure  seemed  to 
tower  over  her  aunt  \  her  firm,  rosy  face  and  clear  blue  eyes 
seemed  to  spy  out  her  inmost  weaknesses  like  sunlight.  *'  I 
must  say  I  am  surprised,"  said  Charlotte.  Her  voice  was 
loud  and  even  and  sweet.  Charlotte,  no  matter  how  indig 
nant  she  might  be,  never  altered  her  voice. 

"  I  didn't  think  it  was  anything  so  much  out  of  the  way, 

"  Well,  I  must  say,  Aunt  Lucinda,  I  never  thought,  from 
all  I've  known  of  you,  that  you'd  do  such  a  thing  as  to  sit 
down  and  play  cards." 

Lucinda's  eyes,  all  pink  and  watery,  rested  appealingly  on 
Charlotte,  then  on  the  table  before  her.  Charlotte  had  on 
a  light  cambric  gown  that  displayed  a  rigor  of  starch  and 
cleanliness.  She  had  worn  her  white  apron  in  school  all 
day,  but  it  still  flared  as  stiffly  as  when  she  had  put  it  on  in 
the  morning.  Her  brown  hair  was  brushed  until  it  shone , 


there  was  not  a  stray  lock  anywhere.  All  this  perfect  order 
and  nicety  made  her  seem  more  pitiless  to  her  aunt.  Lucinda 
shrank  weakly  down  in  her  chair.  She  was  lean  and  deli 
cate,  in  flimsy  old  black  muslin  and  a  shiny  old  black  silk 
apron.  She  wore  a  tumbled  muslin  kerchief  around  her 
neck,  and  had  lax,  faded  curls  behind  her  ears.  She  looked 
from  Charlotte  to  the  table.  There  was  a  printed  red  cloth 
on  it,  and  a  row  of  books  piled  up  against  the  wall  under 
the  gilt-framed  glass.  There  was  an  old-fashioned  work-box 
with  a  gilt  ball  on  each  corner,  and  a  little  china  vase  with 
some  violets  in  it.  But  Lucinda  eyed  ruefully  the  objects 
directly  before  her  on  the  corner  of  the  table.  There  lay  a 
pack  of  little  old-fashioned  cards  and  a  large  green-covered 
Bible.  The  cards  were  scattered  about,  and  some  of  them 
were  tucked  under  the  Bible. 

"  And  for  you  to  try  to  hide  the  cards  under  the  Bible !" 
continued  Charlotte.  "  I  shouldn't  have  thought  you  could 
have  done  that,  Aunt  Lucinda." 

"It  was  layin'  right  there.  I'd  jest  been  readin'  some  in 
it."  Lucinda's  voice  took  on  a  sharper  tone.  There  is  a 
wall  of  limitation  for  all  human  patience,  and  she  was  being 
crowded  against  hers.  She  stood  against  it,  and  displayed 
what  small  defensive  powers  she  had,  although  her  defence 
was  principally  appeal  and  excuse.  "  I  didn't  have  anything 
to  do,"  she  proceeded  —  "not  anything.  I'd  been  knittin' 
till  I  got  cramps,  an'  I  read  a  chapter,  an'  then  I  thought 
I'd  jest  get  out  the  cards.  It's  dreadful  dull  sometimes, 

"  I  should  think  you  could  find  some  amusement  in  your 
own  mind,"  replied  Charlotte,  with  no  abatement  of  se 

Lucinda  eyed  her  in  a  bewildered  way,  as  if  called  upon 


to  consider  an  argument  based  upon  some  unknown  equa 

"  I  know  perfectly  well,"  continued  Charlotte,  "  that  it 
isn't  my  place  to  dictate  to  you,  for  you  are  my  aunt,  and  a 
good  deal  older  than  I  am.  But  I  must  say  it  surprised  me 
a  good  deal  to  come  in  and  find  you  playing  cards,  for  I 
wasn't  brought  up  to  see  them  in  the  house." 

Lucinda  sat  bolt-upright ;  there  were  hot  red  spots  on  her 
cheeks ;  one  near  enough  could  have  seen  pulses  beating 
here  and  there  through  the  delicate  skin  on  her  neck  and 
forehead.  "  I  wa'n't  playin'  cards,"  said  she. 

"Why,  what  were  you  doing,  then?  I  don't  know  what 
you  mean,  Aunt  Lucinda." 

"Well,  I  was—  I  s'pose  you'll  think  I'm  dreadful  silly, 
Charlotte,  but  I  ain't  had  much  to  'muse  me,  an'  I've  kinder 
got  in  the  way  of  it." 

"  For  pity's  sake,  Aunt  Lucinda,  what  are  you  coming  at  ?" 
Charlotte  stared  at  her,  and  wrinkled  her  fair  high  forehead 
in  a  way  she  had  when  perplexed. 

"  I  didn't  mean  to  do  anything  out  of  the  way,  but  I  s'pose 
you'll  think  it  was  dreadful  silly,  Charlotte.  I  was  jest  tell- 
in'  my  fortune." 


The  tears  stood  in  the  old  woman's  eyes.  She  shook  visi 
bly.  In  her  simple  life  her  little  foolishnesses  had  come  to 
take  the  place  of  sins,  and  she  was  shamefaced  over  them 
as  such.  "  I  was  jest — tellin'  my  fortune." 

"  I  don't  believe  I  know  what  you  mean,  Aunt  Lucinda." 
Charlotte's  blue  eyes  were  raised,  her  round  rosy  face  was 
all  furrowed  with  those  lines  of  perplexity. 

"  Why,  don't  you  know,  Charlotte  ?  You  can  tell  your 
fortune  with  cards.  There's  a  way  of  doin'  it.  I  learnt  it 


when  I  was  a  girl.  Didn't  you  know  it  ?"  asked  Lucinda, 
with  tremulous  eagerness. 

"  I've  heard  of  it." 

"  I  s'pose  it  is  kind  of  silly ;  but  it's  kind  of  'musin'  some 
times,  when  I'm  feelin'  dull,  you  know."  Lucinda  trembled, 
and  still  kept  her  eyes  fastened  upon  her  niece's  face,  which 
expressed  a  calm  contempt. 

Presently  Lucinda  began  again,  with  more  stress  of  ap 
peal  :  "  I  was  jest  tellin'  my  fortune,  Charlotte ;  I  didn't 
s'pose  there  was  any  harm  in  it.  Once  in  a  while  I  take  a 
notion  to  tell  it,  jest  for  the  fun  of  it,  you  know." 

"  I  shouldn't  think  it  would  be  much  fun." 

"  Well,  I  dun  know  as  'tis,  Charlotte ;  but  it's  kind  of 
'musin'  sometimes." 

Charlotte  still  gazed  at  her  aunt  with  that  look  of  con 
temptuous  perplexity,  and  the  old  woman  could  not  take  her 
eyes  from  her  face. 

"  It's  jest  because  it's  kind  of  'musin',"  she  pleaded  again. 
"  An'  when  anybody  ain't  had  any  more  change  than  I've 
had  'most  all  their  life,  it's  kind  of  comfortin'  to  spread  out 
the  cards  an'  try  to  calculate  if  there  ain't  somethin'  differ 
ent  comin'.  It  don't  never  come,  an'  I  don't  s'pose  it's  ever 
goin'  to ;  course  I  don't  put  any  faith  in  it,  but  it's  kind  of 

Charlotte  turned  away,  and  put  her  face  down  to  the  little 
bunch  of  violets  on  the  table:  one  of  her  scholars  had 
brought  them  to  her.  "  Well,  I  can't  stop  to  talk  any  more 
about  it,"  said  she.  "  I  must  go  out  and  get  supper." 

Charlotte  righted  herself  and  went  out  of  the  room  with 
a  firm  step,  and  proceeded  to  get  supper  ready.  She  had 
her  own  ideas  about  supper,  and  indeed  about  all  the  other 
meals.  Lucinda  Moss's  household  plan  had  been  revolu- 


lionized  since  her  niece  had  come  to  live  with  her.  She  had 
no  longer  any  voice  in  anything,  and  she  had  come  almost 
to  forget  what  her  own  original  note  had  been.  She  was 
growing  deprecatory  and  shamefaced  about  herself,  and  she 
no  longer  openly  confessed  in  many  cases  her  preferences. 
It  took  some  new  emergency,  like  this  of  the  cards,  to  arouse 
her  at  all. 

Lucinda  had  always  liked  a  bit  of  cold  pork,  some  left 
over  dinner  vegetables,  some  little  savory  relish,  for  supper, 
but  now  she  ate  a  slice  of  bread-and-butter  and  a  spoonful 
of  sauce,  and  drank  a  glass  of  milk.  Charlotte  had  de 
creed  that  that  was  better  for  her.  Lucinda  had  not  even 
her  cup  of  tea  since  Charlotte  reigned. 

Lucinda  had  been  fond  of  a  rich  cup-cake,  which  she  had 
also  enjoyed  stirring  up  once  a  week  for  herself.  She  had 
taken  an  innocent  pride  in  its  excellence,  and  she  had 
treated  her  few  callers  to  it.  She  had  liked  a  slice  of  it  be 
tween  meals.  But  that  was  now  all  done  away  with ;  there 
was  no  cake  baked  in  the  house.  "  That  rich  cake  is  not 
fit  for  you  to  eat,  Aunt  Lucinda,"  Charlotte  had  said.  "  I 
think  we  had  better  not  have  any  more  of  it."  And  poor 
Lucinda  came  gently  down  to  her  niece's  views  on  diet,  and 
put  cup-cake  and  cold  pork  and  vegetables  away  from  her 
like  devices  of  Satan.  She  concealed  from  herself  her  long 
ing  for  them ;  and  she  felt  the  most  sincere  love  and  grati 
tude  to  Charlotte  for  her  interest  in  her  welfare.  Indeed, 
Charlotte  did  everything  from  the  purest  motives.  She  had 
meant  to  do  her  very  best  by  her  old  aunt  Lucinda  when 
she  had  come  to  live  with  her,  after  her  father's  death,  from 
a  sense  of  duty.  She  had  given  up  her  school  in  her  native 
village,  and  taken  another,  that  she  did  not  like  nearly  as 
well,  here  in  Foster.  She  had  found  Lucinda  old  and  fee- 


ble,  and  at  once  set  to  work  about  taking  care  of  her  and 
relieving  her  from  all  her  household  labors. 

Charlotte  had  not  much  time  out  of  school,  but  she  kept 
the  house,  and  would  have  only  a  modicum  of  assistance 
from  her  aunt.  Lucinda  soon  did  not  venture  to  prepare  a 
meal  nor  set  away  a  dish,  she  met  with  such  kind  and  de 
termined  remonstrances  from  her  niece.  Charlotte  was  so 
determined,  when  she  set  about  being  good  and  doing  her 
whole  duty,  that  she  was  quite  capable  of  tyrannizing  over 
goodness  itself.  And  then  it  was  undeniably  better  that  an 
old  and  feeble  woman  like  her  aunt  Lucinda  should  not 
eat  rich  cup-cake  between  meals,  nor  wear  herself  out  at 
house-work,  although  Lucinda  had  never  worn  herself  out 
at  house-work.  There  was  considerable  scandal  of  a  mod 
est  kind  about  her  in  the  village.  There  was  a  rumor  that 
Lucinda  Moss  had  not  taken  up  her  sitting-room  carpet  for 
ten  years,  nor  her  parlor  carpet  within  the  memory  of  man, 
and  that  she  deliberately  shut  up  one  or  two  chambers,  and 
let  them  stay  so,  with  no  application  of  broom  or  duster, 
year  after  year.  But  Charlotte  had  every  carpet  in  the  house 
taken  up  spring  and  fall.  She  hung  all  the  feather-beds  out 
of  the  windows,  and  dusted  in  all  the  dark  corners.  Poor  old 
Lucinda  sometimes  felt  as  if  there  was  so  much  cleanliness 
that  she  was  almost  chilly.  But  she  never  remonstrated 
about  anything,  unless  it  was  for  a  moment,  when  she  hap 
pened  to  be  taken  by  surprise,  as  in  the  matter  of  the  cards. 
She  seemed  quite  to  fall  in  with  Charlotte's  views  that  her 
own  tastes  were  not  to  be  considered  when  they  interfered 
with  her  own  good,  and  that  most  of  them  did  so  interfere. 

When  she  came  out  to  supper  that  night  she  looked 
meekly  and  unquestioningly  at  the  cold  milk,  the  bread- 
and-butter,  and  sauce.  Her  very  soul  thirsted  for  a  cup  of 


tea,  and  she  felt  as  guilty  as  any  wine-bibber  that  it  should 
be  so.  Charlotte  had  said  that  it  was  as  bad  to  drink  tea 
as  to  drink  strong  liquor,  and  that  it  was  very  unhealthy 
for  her. 

It  did  not  take  long  for  them  to  eat  supper ;  they  never 
dallied  over  their  meals.  Charlotte  did  not  dally  over  any 
thing  ;  indeed,  she  could  not,  with  so  much  on  her  hands. 
She  sent  Lucinda  into  the  sitting-room  while  she  put  away 
the  supper  dishes.  When  that  was  done  she  went  into  the 
sitting-room  herself,  and  sat  down  with  some  needle-work 
at  the  window  opposite  her  aunt.  There  was  still  an  hour 
of  daylight  left. 

There  was  a  cunning  look  in  Lucinda's  face ;  she  was 
smiling  and  quite  talkative.  She  spoke  about  the  weather, 
and  the  neighbors,  and  Charlotte's  school ;  then  she  gave  a 
sudden  sharp  glance  at  her  niece.  "  Charlotte  ?" 

"What  say,  Aunt  Lucinda?" 

"  Charlotte."  The  old  woman  was  smiling  hard,  and  her 
voice  was  soft  and  tremulously  sweet.  "  Did  you  ever  have 
your  fortune  told  ?" 

"No,  I  never  did." 

"  Well,  now,  Charlotte,  don't  you  want  me  to  tell  it  ?" 
Lucinda  twisted  her  face  up  towards  her  niece,  and  her  smile 
was  as  bland  and  cunning  as  a  witch's. 

"  No,  thank  you,  Aunt  Lucinda,"  Charlotte  replied,  stiffly. 

"  It's  real  remarkable  how  they  do  turn  out  sometimes, 
Charlotte.  I  might  tell  you  somethin'  'bout — who  you  was 
goin'  to  marry,  you  know." 

"  I  haven't  any  wish  to  try  it,  and  I  am  never  going  to 

marry  anybody."     Charlotte  blushed,  but  she  looked  with 

dignified  scorn  at  her  aunt's  delicate  old  face,  that  still 

smirked  up  at  her.     "  To  say  just  what  I  think,  Aunt  Lu- 



cinda,"  she  continued,  "it  seems  to  me  very  silly,  and  I 
should  think  the  cards  would  be  better  in  the  fire  than 
anywhere  else." 

"I'd  kind  of  hate  to  burn  'em,  Charlotte.  I've  had  'em 
ever  since  I  was  a  girl." 

Charlotte  made  no  reply.  Lucinda  watched  her  pitifully. 
The  cunning  smile  had  faded  entirely  from  her  face.  She 
seemed  to  sit  lower  in  her  chair. 

"  Well,  mebbe  I  had  ought  to  burn  'em,"  she  remarked, 
finally,  with  a  hard  breath.  Pretty  soon  she  arose.  "  I 
guess  I'll  go  to  bed,"  said  she. 

"Why,  it  isn't  dark  yet,"  responded  Charlotte. 

"  I  know  it  ain't,  but  I'm  kind  of  tired  somehow."  Lu 
cinda  went  across  the  room  with  a  weak  shuffle.  Charlotte 
looked  after  her,  and  thought  to  herself  that  she  aged  rap 
idly.  She  did  not  think  any  more  about  the  cards  and  the 
fortune-telling.  She  could  not  treat  any  subject  lightly,  and 
had  to  bring  her  mind  down  with  a  heavy  step  upon  all  mat 
ters,  however  trivial,  that  it  stopped  to  consider.  She  knew 
quite  well  that  her  gentle,  weak  old  aunt's  whim  for  fortune- 
telling  was  not  a  subject  for  very  serious  controversy.  She 
expressed  her  opinion  strongly,  as  was  her  wont ;  then  let 
the  matter  slip  away  entirely  from  her  thoughts. 

The  days  went  on,  and  nothing  more  was  said  about  the 
cards.  Charlotte  did  not  know  whether  they  were  burned, 
as  she  had  advised,  or  not.  She  thought  no  more  about 
them.  She  noticed  that  her  aunt  ate  even  less  than  usual, 
and  seemed  more  spiritless.  She  thought  also  that  she 
grew  thin. 

"  What's  the  matter,  Aunt  Lucinda ;  don't  you  feel  well  ?" 
she  asked  one  night  when  the  old  woman  announced  her 
intention  of  going  to  bed  immediately  after  supper. 



Lucinda  paused  in  her  onward  shuffle.  "Well,  I  dun 
know,"  said  she ;  "  I  guess  I'm  well  'nough,  but  I  feel  kind 
of  poorly.  I've  been  thinkin'  if  I  had  some  of  that  root- 
beer  I  used  to  make,  it  might  kind  of  set  me  up." 

"  Milk  is  a  good  deal  better  for  you,"  said  Charlotte, 
promptly.  "  You  don't  drink  enough  milk." 

"  Well,  I  dun  know ;  I  drink  consider'ble,  Charlotte/' 

"  How  much  did  you  drink  to-night?" 

"  Well,  I  dun  know ;  'most  a  cupful,  I  guess." 

Charlotte  went  to  the  table  and  poured  out  a  cup  quite 
full  of  milk.  "  Now,  Aunt  Lucinda,  you  just  drink  this  down 
before  you  go  to  bed,"  said  she. 

"  Oh,  Charlotte,  I  dun  know  as  I  can." 

"  Yes,  you  can,  too ;  it's  good  for  you." 

Lucinda  put  out  her  hand  for  the  milk  ;  then  she  drew  it 
back.  "  Oh,  Charlotte,  I  can't,  noways  in  the  world." 

Charlotte  held  the  milk  quite  under  her  nose,  and  her 
face  contracted  with  disgust  when  she  looked  down  at  it. 
"  Drink  it  right  down,"  said  Charlotte. 

The  old  woman  took  the  cup,  and  drank  down  the  milk 
with  desperate  gulps.  When  she  had  finished  she  gave  the 
cup  to  Charlotte  and  clapped  her  hand  over  her  mouth. 

"  That's  right,"  said  Charlotte,  in  a  commendatory  tone. 
"  It'll  do  you  good.  You  don't  drink  half  enough  milk." 

Lucinda  gave  her  head  an  unmeaning  shake.  She  was 
quite  speechless.  She  kept  her  hand  pressed  tightly  to  her 
mouth  all  the  way  out  of  the  room. 

The  next  morning  Charlotte  made  her  drink  two  cups  of 
milk  for  breakfast,  and  she  did  so  more  easily.  Lucinda 
looked  quite  alert  that  morning,  and  Charlotte  thought  to 
herself  that  she  was  improving. 

"  You  feel  better,  don't  you,  Aunt  Lucinda  ?"  she  said. 


"  Well,  I  dun  know ;  I  ruther  guess  I  do  feel  a  little  rest 
ed,"  answered  Lucinda. 

She  had  an  odd  expression  that  morning.  Charlotte  kept 
regarding  her ;  she  could  not  think  what  made  her  look  so 
strange.  Finally  she  decided  that  it  was  because  her  aunt 
had  her  hair  pushed  back  a  little  farther  than  usual  from 
her  temples.  It  took  away  from  her  expression  of  gentle 
weakness,  and  gave  her  something  of  a  wild  air.  Charlotte 
was  not  nervous ;  after  she  had  decided  as  to  the  cause  of 
it,  her  aunt's  strange  look  no  longer  dwelt  in  her  mind.  She 
taught  school  placidly  all  the  forenoon.  But  when  she  came 
home  at  noon,  and  could  find  Lucinda  nowhere  in  the  house, 
that  odd  look  of  hers  started  up  afresh  in  her  memory.  After 
she  had  hunted  through  the  house  and  garden,  and  inquired 
at  the  neighbors',  she  stood  in  the  middle  of  the  sitting- 
room,  and  that  strange  face  swam  before  her  eyes.  "It 
meant  something,"  she  said  to  herself;  "she  meant  to  do 

Some  of  the  neighbors  came  running  in.  There  were 
three  men  (two  old  ones  and  one  young  one),  two  middle- 
aged  women,  and  two  girls.  They  had  just  risen  from  their 
dinner-tables  ;  the  women  were  in  calico  gowns  and  aprons, 
and  the  men  in  their  shirt  sleeves — all  except  the  young 
man  ;  he  had  stopped  to  put  on  his  coat. 

"Oh,  have  you  found  her?"  two  or  three  of  the  women 
gasped  out  as  they  entered  ;  the  others  stared  in  breathless 
inquiry.  Charlotte  shook  her  head.  The  neighbors  circled 
around  her  and  asked  questions.  Nobody  knew  what  to  do 
first.  "The  trouble  is,  there  don't  seem  to  be  anywhere 
that  there's  any  sense  in  to  look  for  her,"  said  one  of  the 
women,  with  a  sage  air.  And  it  was  quite  true.  There  was 
no  reasonable  place  outside  of  her  own  house  in  which  to 


look  for  her.  Lucinda  might  almost  have  been  regarded 
as  a  gentle  and  timid  crustacean,  and  that  house  in  which 
she  had  been  born  and  lived  her  whole  life  as  her  shell. 
She  never  stirred  out  of  it,  except  into  her  little  garden, 
from  one  week's  end  to  the  other.  She  never  went  into  a 
neighbor's.  It  had  seemed  a  mere  farce  to  inquire  of  one. 
It  was  almost  impossible  to  imagine  Lucinda  outside  of  her 
own  house ;  the  very  windows  seemed  full  of  her  to  people 
on  the  street,  and  the  neighbors  were  bewildered,  standing 
there  in  the  sitting-room  and  trying  to  think  of  her  as  away. 

The  young  man  in  the  company  surveyed  Charlotte  with 
anxious,  honest  eyes.  He  was  tall,  and  his  fair  curly  head 
overtopped  all  the  others.  He  was  the  brother  of  one  of 
the  girls.  Charlotte  never  looked  at  him.  The  talk  and 
speculation  went  on ;  then  finally  the  young  man  made  a  start. 
"  I'll  go  and  put  my  horse  in  the  buggy,"  he  said,  in  a  de 
termined  tone,  "  and  I'll  go  a  piece  on  all  the  roads,  and  see 
if  anybody  has  seen  anything  of  her." 

"  I'll  go  an'  help  you  harness,"  returned  one  of  the  old 
men,  promptly. 

Then  Charlotte  and  the  others  searched  the  house  again 
from  garret  to  cellar.  Charlotte  was  not  easily  timorous 
nor  imaginative,  but  fearful  imaginations  could  come  to  her, 
as  to  all  human  beings,  and  when  they  did  come  they  had 
weighty  presences.  Charlotte  probably  would  never  see  a 
ghost,  but  if  she  ever  did  it  would  come  with  a  mighty  march 
upon  her.  After  the  second  fruitless  search  through  the 
house  was  finished,  she  turned  upon  the  people  with  her. 
"  Something  dreadful  has  happened,"  said  she,  in  a  quick, 
strained  tone. 

'  Oh,  mebbe  there  ain't,"  one  of  the  women  said,  sooth 
ingly  ;  but  her  eyes  were  wild  and  scared. 


"Yes,  there  has." 

They  all  stood  in  the  side  entry,  where  they  had  come 
from  the  second  story.  Charlotte  looked  from  one  to  the 
other ;  then  she  set  her  mouth  hard,  and  went  out  into  the 
yard.  In  the  middle  of  the  yard  there  was  a  well  with  an 
old-fashioned  sweep.  Charlotte  went  with  rigid  strides 
straight  to  the  well,  and  the  people  followed  her,  the  young 
girls  hanging  back  a  little.  Charlotte  stretched  herself  up, 
leaned  over  the  curb,  and  looked  down  ;  the  others  crowded 
close  to  her,  and  did  the  same.  They  could  see  nothing 
but  their  own  faces  in  the  far-away  dark  water.  They  gazed 
down  at  the  young  rosy  faces  and  the  old  ones,  with  the 
flecks  of  sunlight  around  them,  but  they  could  see  nothing 
beyond.  It  was  that  reflection  of  life  which  is  all  that  one 
sees  upon  the  farthest  point  of  investigation. 

"  We  can't  see  nothin'  but  ourselves,"  said  one  of  the 
women.  "  Father,  you'd  better  get  a  pole  somewhere,  an' 
poke  down  there." 

"  Where  can  I  git  a  pole  ?"  asked  the  old  man,  who  was 
the  woman's  husband.  He  had  an  important,  solemn 
voice ;  his  wife,  no  matter  how  great  her  awe,  was  always 
sharply  vociferous. 

One  of  the  young  girls  clutched  the  other  by  the  arm 
when  the  pole  was  mentioned.  Charlotte  and  the  old  man 
went  into  the  garden,  where  there  was  a  pile  of  last  year's 
bean-poles,  and  he  spliced  some  together  with  clumsy  pains. 
They  all  stood  back  when  he  stepped  up  and  began  prob 
ing  the  well.  He  had  bent  a  nail  in  the  end  of  the  pole, 
and  he  poked  about  warily.  Finally  he  turned  about  on 
his  spectators.  He  had  a  large  face,  and  he  carried  himself 

"There  ain't  nothin'  there,"  said  he.    There  was  a  slight 


savor  of  disappointment  in  his  tone.  He  had  a  natural 
scent  for  glory,  but  he  was  like  an  animal  reared  at  a  dis 
tance  from  his  native  prey,  and  had  little  opportunity  to 
exercise  it.  He  wished  no  harm  to  have  befallen  poor  Lu- 
cinda ;  but  if  there  had,  he  would  have  liked  that  distinc 
tion  which  belonged  to  the  discoverer  of  it. 

"  Are  you  sure  ?"  asked  his  wife. 

"  Course  I'm  sure.  There  ain't  no  use  standin'  pokin* 
any  longer."  The  old  man  stepped  down  and  stood  in  a 
stately  attitude,  with  a  pole  at  his  side  like  a  spear.  "  There 
ain't  any  other  well,  is  there  ?"  he  inquired  of  Charlotte. 


"  No  cistern  nor  nothin'  ?  There  wa'n't  nothin*  covered 
up  that  she  could  have  stepped  into  ?" 

"  No,  there  wasn't,"  said  Charlotte.  She  struck  out  of 
the  yard  as  she  spoke. 

"  Where  you  goin'  ?"  one  of  the  women  asked. 

"  Down  to  the  salt-meadow." 

Charlotte  kept  on  down  the  street,  and  they  all  straggled 
after  her.  Others  joined  them,  with  eager  questions,  as 
they  progressed.  It  was  quite  a  crowd  that  reached  the 
marsh  that  the  Foster  people  called  the  salt-meadow.  High 
tides  flooded  it.  The  rest  of  the  time  it  lay  a  bare  level, 
burned  by  the  sun  and  swept  by  the  salt  wind.  Here  and 
there  were  pools  of  sea-water  quite  deep.  Charlotte  had 
thought  of  them. 

Away  over  to  the  eastward  there  was  a  blue  line  between 
the  marsh  and  a  white  cloudy  sky ;  that  was  the  sea.  The 
people  ran  about  here  and  there  over  the  marsh ;  they 
looked  taller  than  they  were.  There  were  now  many 
boys  in  the  company,  and  when  they  got  into  the  distance, 
and  showed  up  against  the  sky,  they  looked  like  men  on 


the  level  meadow.  They  whooped  and  hallooed.  Char 
lotte  never  spoke  a  word.  She  went  from  pool  to  pool, 
and  the  old  man  with  the  pole  went  with  her.  Here  and 
there  lay  great  mats  of  long  and  sunburnt  marsh-grass. 
They  looked  like  fleeces  of  wild  animals.  Charlotte  eyed 
one  with  a  desire  to  lift  it  up  and  see  if  her  aunt  were  not 
lying  hidden  beneath  it.  Charlotte,  neither  knowing  why, 
nor  fully  understanding  that  she  was,  began  to  be  tortured 
by  remorse.  Lucinda  had  never  spoken  to  blame  her,  but 
there  was  no  need,  for  silence  and  absence  will  grind  with 
accusing  voices.  Charlotte's  ears  were  full  of  the  voices, 
although  she  could  not  yet  understand  what  they  said. 

She  did  not  until  that  evening.  When  she  returned  from 
her  fruitless  search  on  the  marsh  she  found  the  house  and 
yard  quite  full  of  people.  Some  of  the  kindly  women  had 
been  getting  supper.  They  had  brought  in  of  their  own 
stores.  The  hygienic  food  in  the  house  looked  rather  poor 
to  them.  They  agreed  that  Lucinda  must  have  been  pretty 
well  pinched.  The  table  was  loaded  with  hot  biscuits,  cake, 
and  cold  meats,  and  there  was  a  pot  of  strong  tea.  Char 
lotte  would  not  eat  anything,  although  the  women  urged 
her.  Finally  they  sat  down  and  drank  the  tea  themselves. 
After  supper,  the  house  cleared  gradually.  Two  of  the 
women  volunteered  to  stay  with  Charlotte  all  night,  and 
the  young  girl,  sister  of  the  fair-haired  young  man,  was  to 
sleep  with  her.  The  two  older  women  went  home  for  a 
Httle  while  to  mix  some  bread  and  fold  clothes,  and  the 
young  girl  and  Charlotte  were  alone  in  the  sitting-room. 

Now  and  then  they  could  hear  voices  out  in  the  street. 
Charlotte  kept  going  to  the  door  to  listen.  Once,  as  she 
returned,  she  hit  Lucinda's  little  old  work-box  that  stood 
on  the  corner  of  the  table,  and  knocked  it  to  the  floor.  All 


the  things  fell  out ;  Charlotte  groaned.  It  seemed  as  if  she 
hurt  her  lost  aunt.  The  girl  came  to  her  aid,  and  they  be- 
gan  picking  up  the  things  and  replacing  them.  Suddenly 
Charlotte  gave  a  cry,  and  took  something  to  the  light  and 
examined  it  closely.  Then  she  sank  into  a  chair,  and 
rocked  herself  to  and  fro,  and  cried. 

"  Oh,  dear !  oh,  dear !  poor  Aunt  Lucinda !  poor  Aunt 
Lucinda !  What  shall  I  do  ?  what  shall  I  do  ?"  she  wailed. 

The  girl  arose,  and  stood  regarding  her  in  a  frightened 
way.  She  had  a  sweet,  homely  face,  and  was  very  small, 
much  smaller  than  Charlotte.  She  had  always  been  rather 
afraid  of  Charlotte,  she  was  so  large  and  handsome  and 
peremptory.  Finally  she  went  up  to  her  timidly.  "  Why, 
what  is  it?"  she  asked  ;  "what  is  the  matter,  Charlotte?'* 

Charlotte  held  out  something.  "  Look  at  that,"  she  said, 

The  girl  took  it  and  looked  at  it  curiously.  It  was  a  play 
ing-card,  the  jack  of  hearts,  and  one  corner  was  scorched 
and  shrivelled  by  fire.  "  Why,  it's  a  card,"  said  she,  vague 
ly  ;  "  and  it's  been  burnt." 

Charlotte  uncovered  her  face,  and  showed  it  wet  and 
swollen  and  distorted.  "Yes,"  said  she,  "it's  a  card.  And 
I'll  tell  you  what  I  did.  I'll  tell  you  all  about  it.  I've 
been  wicked  ;  I've  been  dreadful  wicked  and  cruel.  I  found 
her  trying  to  tell  her  fortune  with  those  cards  one  day,  and 
I  scolded  her  for  it,  and  I  told  her  she  ought  to  burn  them 
up.  She  was  telling  her  fortune,  and  trying  to  get  a  little 
bit  of  comfort  and  amusement  out  of  it,  and  she's  never 
had  much  in  her  life.  She  was  cooped  up  here  in  this  house 
all  the  best  part  of  her  life  with  her  mother,  that  was  ner 
vous  and  half  crazy,  and  had  to  be  taken  care  of  like  a 
baby.  She  never  went  anywhere  nor  had  anything,  and 


she  got  a  little  bit  of  comfort  out  of  the  cards  telling  her 
fortune,  and  I  told  her  to  burn  them.  And  she  tried  to. 
Oh,  she  tried  to ! — she  tried  to  !  Poor  Aunt  Lucinda  !  I 
can  see  it,  just  how  it  was.  She  put  them  into  the  fire,  and 
she  felt  dreadfully  to  see  them  burn.  She'd  had  them  ever 
since  she  was  a  girl,  and  she'd  taken  so  much  comfort  with 
them !  It  was  just  like  burning  up  all  the  little  hope  she 
had  left.  And  she  just  pulled  out  this  card,  when  it  was 
all  afire,  and  saved  it.  I  remember  she  had  burned  her 
fingers,  and  she  wouldn't  tell  me  how.  That  was  how  she 
did  it.  Oh,  poor  Aunt  Lucinda!  poor  Aunt  Lucinda  !" 

The  other  girl  looked  from  her  to  the  card  with  a  puz 
zled  and  distressed  air.  "  Don't  feel  so  bad,"  she  ventured, 

"Oh,  I've  got  to  feel  bad !  I've  got  to !  I've  got  to  all 
my  life !  The  cards  ain't  all.  Oh,  I  can  tell  you  things — 
things  that  I  never  knew  before.  They  all  come  up  now. 
I  haven't  let  her  have  tea  when  she  wanted  it,  nor  cake, 
nor  cold  pork  and  potatoes  for  supper,  nor  anything  be 
tween  meals.  And  she  wanted  some  root-beer  last  night, 
and  I  said  she  couldn't  have  it.  I've  been  setting  myself 
up,  because  I  thought  I  knew  more  ;  and  I  knew  the  things 
weren't  good  for  her  perhaps,  but  they  were  all  her  little 
comforts,  all  she  had,  and  nobody  ought  to  have  taken  them 
away  but  God.  Oh,  I've  been  doing  a  dreadful  thing  !  I've 
been  stealing  from  her.  And  I've  done  more  than  that. 
Oh,  I  have !  I  have !  I've  been  stealing  her.  I've  been 
taking  the  self  out  of  her.  Oh,  poor  Aunt  Lucinda !  poor 
Aunt  Lucinda !  What  shall  I  do  ?  what  shall  I  do  ?" 

The  girl  was  quite  pale ;  she  held  her  lips  parted.  She 
did  not  comprehend  it  at  all,  nor  know  what  to  say.  Sud 
denly  there  was  a  touch  on  her  shoulder,  and  she  looked 


around.  It  was  her  brother ;  he  had  been  standing  in  the 
room  a  minute  or  two,  but  they  had  not  noticed  him. 

"What's  the  matter  with  her?"  he  asked  his  sister  in  a 

Charlotte  went  on  wailing.  Both  of  them  had  an  odd 
feeling  that  she  was  not  fairly  there,  and  that  they  could 
speak  of  her. 

"  3h.e  feels  awfully.  She  thinks  she  hasn't  treated  her 

"What  stuff!"  The  young  man  hesitated  a  moment; 
his  face  flushed  ;  he  looked  at  his  sister.  Finally  he  went 
up  to  Charlotte,  knelt  down  on  the  floor  beside  her,  and 
slid  his  arm  around  her  waist.  "  Don't  take  on  so — don't ; 
you  mustn't,"  he  whispered.  "  I'll  find  her.  I'm  going 
now  to  give  my  horse  his  supper,  and  then  I'm  going  to 
get  a  fresh  one  at  Joe  Grayson's,  and  I'm  going  to  start 
out  again.  I'll  find  her  before  morning,  and  bring  her  back 
safe  and  sound.  Don't  take  on  so." 

But  Charlotte  never  hushed  her  wail.  She  did  not  seem 
to  notice  that  his  arm  was  around  her. 

The  young  man  arose;  he  did  not  meet  his  sister's  eye 
when  he  spoke  to  her.  "  I'm  going  home,  and  will  send 
mother  over  right  away,"  said  he. 

"She's  coming  as  soon  as  she's  folded  the  clothes," 
replied  the  sister. 

"  She's  got  to  come  now." 

His  steps  sounded  heavy  and  quick  on  the  front  walk. 
In  spite  of  his  pity  he  had  an  odd  feeling  of  elation.  He 
also  had  been  rather  afraid  of  Charlotte ;  she  had  seemed 
like  a  goddess  in  armor.  He  had  now  a  feeling  that  he 
had  caught  her  outside  of  her  panoply. 

He  lived  only  three  houses  away,  and  his  mother  came 


running  over  in  a  few  minutes.  She  was  a  woman  with  as 
weighty  a  will  as  Charlotte's,  although  her  softness  and 
slowness  of  manner  disguised  it.  Her  will  to  Charlotte's 
was  as  feathers  to  steel,  but  the  weight  was  there.  She 
made  Charlotte  drink  a  bowl  of  sage  tea  and  go  to  bed. 
She  and  the  other  woman  sat  up  all  night  in  the  sitting- 
room,  and  listened  and  watched.  They  felt  as  if  dreadful 
tidings  might  arrive  at  any  moment,  but  none  did.  When 
Charlotte  came  down-stairs  in  the  morning  nothing  more 
was  known  about  her  aunt  than  when  she  had  gone  to  bed. 
Charlotte  had  not  slept  any,  but  she  was  quite  calm.  All 
her  old  repose  of  manner  had  returned,  but  there  was  no 
longer  any  strength  in  it.  She  did  not  stand  as  erect,  with 
her  shoulders  back,  as  formerly.  She  looked  ten  years 
younger.  Charlotte  was  quite  a  young  girl,  but  everybody 
had  considered  her  older. 

The  search  for  Lucinda  continued:  the  roads  were 
scoured  for  miles  around,  every  well  and  pool  was  dragged, 
a  close  watch  was  kept  upon  the  sea-shore ;  but  nothing 
was  seen  of  her  until  five  o'clock  in  the  afternoon.  Then 
she  came  walking  into  the  house.  She  entered  at  the  side 
door,  and  went  straight  into  the  sitting-room.  There  were 
some  women  there  with  Charlotte.  They  all  sat  about 
the  room  like  mourners.  When  they  saw  Lucinda  they 
screamed  with  shrill  voices,  and  more  women  came  in  from 
the  kitchen.  Charlotte  did  not  speak  nor  scream.  She 
went  over  to  her  aunt  and  clutched  her  arm  hard. 

Lucinda  looked  about  with  a  bewildered  air.  Her  cheeks 
were  quite  pink,  her  eyes  shone,  her  curls  were  all  untwisted 
and  lay  on  her  shoulders.  Her  bonnet,  which  was  flat  and 
old-fashioned,  had  slipped  far  back,  her  cashmere  shawl 
with  a  green  centre  was  pinned  on  one  side,  and  the  point 


trailed.  But  with  all  her  disorder  and  bewilderment  she 
was  full  of  gentle  but  triumphant  assertion. 

"What  are  they  all  in  here  for  this  way?"  she  asked 
Charlotte,  quite  openly. 

"  Oh,  Aunt  Lucinda,  where  have  you  been  ?" 

Lucinda  looked  about  on  them  all  with  a  sort  of  mild 
dignity.  She  stood  quite  straight.  "  I've  been  a-visitinV 

"  What  ?" 

"  I've  been  a-visitinV 

"Oh,  Aunt  Lucinda,  where?" 

"  I've  been  to  Denham." 


"  Yes ;  it's  forty  mile  away,  an'  I've  been  on  the  cars. 
I've  been  a-visitin'  my  cousin  on  my  mother's  side  that 
lives  there — Mary  Ellen  Taylor.  She's  livin'  with  her  old 
est  son,  an'  she's  situated  real  pleasant.  I  hadn't  seen  her 
for  twenty-five  year." 

"  Oh !  how  did  you  get  there  ?" 

"  I  went  on  the  steam-cars,"  replied  Lucinda,  with  a  lofty 

"  But  how  ?  Nobody  saw  you.  How  did  you  get  started, 
Aunt  Lucinda  ?" 

Lucinda  surveyed  her  niece  with  a  look  of  pleasant  cun 
ning.  "  I  jest  went  down  'cross-lots  an'  got  on.  I  didn't 
see  nobody,"  said  she. 

It  was  quite  true,  and  had  been  quite  feasible,  as  every 
body  saw.  There  was  no  regular  depot  at  Foster,  nothing 
but  a  little  rude  shed  with  a  bench,  where  passengers,  if  there 
were  any,  waited.  That  day  there  had  been  none,  and  the 
road  was  lonely.  Lucinda  had  been  quite  unseen  and 
unmolested  in  her  journey  across-lots  and  her  waiting  at 
the  station.  Now  that  she  had  appeared,  it  seemed  strange 


that  no  one  had  thought  of  such  a  solution  of  her  dis 
appearance.  But  people  would  have  dreamed  as  soon  of  a 
marsh-flower  taking  to  the  railroad  as  of  Lucinda  Moss. 
She  had  been  so  long  in  one  place  that  it  seemed  that  it 
must  be  with  her  as  with  the  flower,  and  that  nothing  but 
the  wind  of  death  could  take  her  away. 

The  women  had  stood  about,  astonished  and  panic- 
stricken.  Finally  one  spoke  up.  "  Well,"  said  she,  "  I 
know  one  thing :  if  I  was  to  say  what  I  thought,  it  would 
be  somethin'  pretty  plain.  All  this  go-round — " 

Charlotte  interposed.  She  stepped  before  her  aunt,  who 
had  begun  to  shrink.  "Don't  you  say  a  word  to  blame 
her ;  I  won't  have  it,"  said  she. 

"  Well,  if  you  want  to  excuse  it,  after  all  the  trouble  and 
worry  we've  had  and  you've  had — " 

"  I  won't  hear  a  word,"  repeated  Charlotte. 

After  a  while  the  neighbors  had  one  by  one  departed, 
and  Charlotte  and  Lucinda  were  alone  together.  Charlotte 
went  directly  about  getting  supper.  When  she  called  out 
Lucinda  there  was  a  fine  array  on  the  table  :  plenty  of  cake 
and  pie,  and  some  cold  meat  and  vegetables.  The  room 
was  full  of  the  fragrance  of  tea,  Charlotte  poured  out  a 
cup,  and  passed  it  to  Lucinda.  "  I  thought  we'd  have  tea 
to-night,"  said  she.  "And  I've  been  thinking — this  cake 
is  some  the  neighbors  brought  in,  but  I  don't  think  it  is 
nearly  as  good  as  that  cup-cake  you  used  to  make,  and  I 
wish  you'd  make  some  to-morrow,  Aunt  Lucinda,  if  you  feel 
like  it." 

"  I'd  jest  as  lief  as  not."  Lucinda's  face  was  all  trem 
bling  with  smiles. 

The  next  night,  when  Charlotte  came  home  from  school, 
she  had  a  little  parcel  that  she  handed  to  Lucinda.  "  Here's 


something  I  bought  for  you,  Aunt  Lucinda,"  said  she.  Lu- 
cinda  opened  the  parcel.  It  was  a  pack  of  cards.  "  I  don't 
know  but  I'll  let  you  tell  my  fortune,  after  all,  if  you'd  like 
to,"  observed  Charlotte,  after  a  while. 

After  supper  that  evening  Lucinda  moved  the  things  on 
the  table  back,  and  spread  out  the  cards.  She  bent  over 
them,  and  her  face  took  on  a  wise  and  important  expression. 
"  Well,"  said  she,  finally,  in  a  meditative  voice,  "  there's  a 
light-complected  man  right  close  to  you,  Charlotte,  an'  a 
weddin'-ring,  for  the  first  thing — " 


"  I  DON'T  see  what  kind  of  ideas  you've  got  in  your  head 
for  my  part."  Mrs.  Britton  looked  sharply  at  her  daughter 
Louisa,  but  she  got  no  response. 

Louisa  sat  in  one  of  the  kitchen  chairs  close  to  the 
door.  She  had  dropped  into  it  when  she  first  entered. 
Her  hands  were  all  brown  and  grimy  with  garden-mould ; 
it  clung  to  the  bottom  of  her  old  dress  and  her  coarse 

Mrs.  Britton,  sitting  opposite  by  the  window,  waited, 
looking  at  her.  Suddenly  Louisa's  silence  seemed  to  strike 
her  mother's  will  with  an  electric  shock ;  she  recoiled,  with 
an  angry  jerk  of  her  head.  "  You  don't  know  nothin'  about 
it.  You'd  like  him  well  enough  after  you  was  married  to 
him,"  said  she,  as  if  in  answer  to  an  argument. 

Louisa's  face  looked  fairly  dull ;  her  obstinacy  seemed 
to  cast  a  film  over  it.  Her  eyelids  were  cast  down ;  she 
leaned  her  head  back  against  the  wall. 

"  Sit  there  like  a  stick  if  you  want  to !"  cried  her  mother 

Louisa  got  up.  As  she  stirred,  a  faint  earthy  odor  dif 
fused  itself  through  the  room.  It  was  like  a  breath  from 
a  ploughed  field. 

Mrs.  Britton's  little  sallow  face  contracted  more  forcibly. 
"  I  s'pose  now  you're  goin'  back  to  your  potater  patch," 

LOUISA.  385 

said  she.  "Plantin'  potaters  out  there  jest  like  a  man,  for 
all  the  neighbors  to  see.  Pretty  sight,  I  call  it" 

"  If  they  don't  like  it,  they  needn't  look,"  returned  Louisa. 
She  spoke  quite  evenly.  Her  young  back  was  stiff  with 
bending  over  the  potatoes,  but  she  straightened  it  rigor 
ously.  She  pulled  her  old  hat  farther  over  her  eyes. 

There  was  a  shuffling  sound  outside  the  door  and  a  fum 
ble  at  the  latch.  It  opened,  and  an  old  man  came  in,  scrap 
ing  his  feet  heavily  over  the  threshold.  He  carried  an 
old  basket. 

"What  you  got  in  that  basket,  father?"  asked  Mrs. 

The  old  man  looked  at  her.  His  old  face  had  the  round 
outlines  and  naive  grin  of  a  child. 

"  Father,  what  you  got  in  that  basket  ?" 

Louisa  peered  apprehensively  into  the  basket.  "  Where 
did  you  get  those  potatoes,  grandfather  ?"  said  she. 

"  Digged  'em."  The  old  man's  grin  deepened.  He 
chuckled  hoarsely. 

"  Well,  I'll  give  up  if  he  ain't  been  an'  dug  up  all  them 
potaters  you've  been  plantin' !"  said  Mrs.  Britton. 

"  Yes,  he  has,"  said  Louisa.  "  Oh,  grandfather,  didn't 
you  know  I'd  jest  planted  those  potatoes  ?" 

The  old  man  fastened  his  bleared  blue  eyes  on  her  face, 
and  still  grinned. 

"  Didn't  you  know  better,  grandfather  ?"  she  asked  again. 

But  the  old  man  only  chuckled.  He  was  so  old  that  he 
had  come  back  into  the  mystery  of  childhood.  His  motives 
were  hidden  and  inscrutable;  his  amalgamation  with  the 
human  race  was  so  much  weaker. 

"  Land  sakes !  don't  waste  no  more  time  talkin'  to  him," 
said  Mrs.  Britton.  "  You  can't  make  out  whether  he  knows 

386  LOUISA. 

what  he's  doin'  or  not.  I've  give  it  up.  Father,  you  jest  set 
them  pertaters  down,  an'  you  come  over  here  an'  set  down 
in  the  rockin'-chair ;  you've  done  about  'nough  work  to-day." 

The  old  man  shook  his  head  with  slow  mutiny. 

"  Come  right  over  here." 

Louisa  pulled  at  the  basket  of  potatoes.  "  Let  me  have 
'em,  grandfather,"  said  she.  "  I've  got  to  have  'em." 

The  old  man  resisted.  His  grin  disappeared,  and  he 
set  his  mouth.  Mrs.  Britton  got  up,  with  a  determined  air, 
and  went  over  to  him.  She  was  a  sickly,  frail-looking  wom 
an,  but  the  voice  came  firm,  with  deep  bass  tones,  from 
her  little  lean  throat. 

"  Now,  father,"  said  she,  "  you  jest  give  her  that  basket, 
an'  you  walk  across  the  room,  and  you  set  down  in  that 

The  old  man  looked  down  into  her  little,  pale,  wedge-shaped 
face.  His  grasp  on  the  basket  weakened.  Louisa  pulled 
it  away,  and  pushed  past  out  of  the  door,  and  the  old  man 
followed  his  daughter  sullenly  across  the  room  to  the  rock 

The  Brittons  did  not  have  a  large  potato  field  ;  they  had 
only  an  acre  of  land  in  all.  Louisa  had  planted  two  thirds 
of  her  potatoes ;  now  she  had  to  plant  them  all  over  again. 
She  had  gone  to  the  house  for  a  drink  of  water  ;  her  mother 
had  detained  her,  and  in  the  meantime  the  old  man  had 
undone  her  work.  She  began  putting  the  cut  potatoes 
back  in  the  ground.  She  was  careful  and  laborious  about 
it.  A  strong  wind,  full  of  moisture,  was  blowing  from  the 
east.  The  smell  of  the  sea  was  in  it,  although  this  was 
some  miles  inland.  Louisa's  brown  calico  skirt  blew  out 
in  it  like  a  sail.  It  beat  her  in  the  face  when  she  raised 
her  head. 

LOUISA.  387 

"  I've  got  to  get  these  in  to-day  somehow,"  she  muttered. 
*  It  '11  rain  to-morrow." 

She  worked  as  fast  as  she  could,  and  the  afternoon  wore 
on.  About  five  o'clock  she  happened  to  glance  at  the 
road — the  potato  field  lay  beside  it — and  she  saw  Jonathan 
Nye  driving  past  with  his  gray  horse  and  buggy.  She 
turned  her  back  to  the  road  quickly,  and  listened  until  the 
rattle  of  the  wheels  died  away.  At  six  o'clock  her  mother 
looked  out  of  the  kitchen  window  and  called  her  to  supper. 

"  I'm  comin'  in  a  minute,"  Louisa  shouted  back.  Then 
she  worked  faster  than  ever.  At  half-past  six  she  went 
into  the  house,  and  the  potatoes  were  all  in  the  ground. 

"  Why  didn't  you  come  when  I  called  you  ?"  asked  her 

"  I  had  to  get  the  potatoes  in." 

"  I  guess  you  wa'n't  bound  to  get  'em  all  in  to-night.  It's 
kind  of  discouragin'  when  you  work,  an'  get  supper  all  ready, 
to  have  it  stan'  an  hour,  I  call  it.  An'  you've  worked  'bout 
long  enough  for  one  day  out  in  this  damp  wind,  I  should 

Louisa  washed  her  hands  and  face  at  the  kitchen  sink, 
and  smoothed  her  hair  at  the  little  glass  over  it.  She  had 
wet  her  hair  too,  and  made  it  look  darker :  it  was  quite  a 
light  brown.  She  brushed  it  in  smooth  straight  lines  back 
from  her  temples.  Her  whole  face  had  a  clear  bright  look 
from  being  exposed  to  the  moist  wind.  She  noticed  it  her 
self,  and  gave  her  head  a  little  conscious  turn. 

When  she  sat  down  to  the  table  her  mother  looked  at 
her  with  admiration,  which  she  veiled  with  disapproval. 

"  Jest  look  at  your  face,"  said  she ;  "  red  as  a  beet. 
You'll  be  a  pretty-lookin'  sight  before  the  summer's  out, 
at  this  rate." 

388  LOUISA. 

Louisa  thought  to  herself  that  the  light  was  not  very 
strong,  and  the  glass  must  have  flattered  her.  She  could 
not  look  as  well  as  she  had  imagined.  She  spread  some 
butter  on  her  bread  very  sparsely.  There  was  nothing  for 
supper  but  some  bread  and  butter  and  weak  tea,  though 
the  old  man  had  his  dish  of  Indian-meal  porridge.  He 
could  not  eat  much  solid  food.  The  porridge  was  covered 
with  milk  and  molasses.  He  bent  low  over  it,  and  ate 
large  spoonfuls  with  loud  noises.  His  daughter  had  tied 
a  towel  around  his  neck  as  she  would  have  tied  a  pinafore 
on  a  child.  She  had  also  spread  a  towel  over  the  table 
cloth  in  front  of  him,  and  she  watched  him  sharply  lest  he 
should  spill  his  food. 

"  I  wish  I  could  have  somethin'  to  eat  that  I  could  relish 
the  way  he  does  that  porridge  and  molasses,"  said  she. 
She  had  scarcely  tasted  anything.  She  sipped  her  weak 
tea  laboriously. 

Louisa  looked  across  at  her  mother's  meagre  little  figure 
in  its  neat  old  dress,  at  her  poor  small  head  bending  over 
the  tea-cup,  showing  the  wide  parting  in  the  thin  hair. 

"  Why  don't  you  toast  your  bread,  mother  ?"  said  she. 
"  I'll  toast  it  for  you." 

"  No,  I  don't  want  it.  I'd  jest  as  soon  have  it  this  way 
as  any.  I  don't  want  no  bread,  nohow.  I  want  somethin' 
to  relish — a  herrin',  or  a  little  mite  of  cold  meat,  or  some- 
thin'.  I  s'pose  I  could  eat  as  well  as  anybody  if  I  had  as 
much  as  some  folks  have.  Mis'  Mitchell  was  sayin'  the 
other  day  that  she  didn't  believe  but  what  they  had  butch 
er's  meat  up  to  Mis'  Nye's  every  day  in  the  week.  She 
said  Jonathan  he  went  to  Wolfsborough  and  brought  home 
great  pieces  in  a  market-basket  every  week.  I  guess  they 
have  everything." 

LOUISA.  389 

Louisa  was  not  eating  much  herself,  but  now  she  took 
another  slice  of  bread  with  a  resolute  air.  "  I  guess  some 
folks  would  be  thankful  to  get  this,"  said  she. 

"  Yes,  I  s'pose  we'd  ought  to  be  thankful  for  enough  to 
keep  us  alive,  anybody  takes  so  much  comfort  livin',''  re 
turned  her  mother,  with  a  tragic  bitterness  that  sat  oddly 
upon  her,  as  she  was  so  small  and  feeble.  Her  face  worked 
and  strained  under  the  stress  of  emotion  ;  her  eyes  were  full 
of  tears  ;  she  sipped  her  tea  fiercely. 

"  There's  some  sugar,"  said  Louisa.  "  We  might  have 
had  a  little  cake." 

The  old  man  caught  the  word.  "  Cake  ?"  he  mumbled, 
with  pleased  inquiry,  looking  up,  and  extending  his  grasp 
ing  old  hand. 

"  I  guess  we  ain't  got  no  sugar  to  waste  in  cake,"  re 
turned  Mrs.  Britton,  "  Eat  your  porridge,  father,  an'  stop 
teasin'.  There  ain't  no  cake." 

After  supper  Louisa  cleared  away  the  dishes ;  then  she 
put  on  her  shawl  and  hat. 

u  Where  you  goin'  ?"  asked  her  mother. 

"  Down  to  the  store." 

"What  for?" 

"  The  oil's  out.  There  wasn't  enough  to  fill  the  lamps 
this  mornin'.  I  ain't  had  a  chance  to  get  it  before." 

It  was  nearly  dark.  The  mist  was  so  heavy  it  was  al 
most  rain.  Louisa  went  swiftly  down  the  road  with  the  oil 
can.  It  was  a  half-mile  to  the  store  where  the  few  staples 
were  kept  that  sufficed  the  simple  folk  in  this  little  settle 
ment.  She  was  gone  a  half-hour.  When  she  returned, 
she  had  besides  the  oil-can  a  package  under  her  arm. 
She  went  into  the  kitchen  and  set  them  down.  The 
old  man  was  asleep  in  the  rocking-chair.  She  heard  voices 

390  LOUISA. 

in  the  adjoining  room.  She  frowned,  and  stood  still,  lis 

"  Louisa !"  called  her  mother.  Her  voice  was  sweet, 
and  higher  pitched  than  usual.  She  sounded  the  i  in  Louisa 

"  What  say  ?" 

"  Come  in  here  after  you've  taken  your  things  off." 

Louisa  knew  that  Jonathan  Nye  was  in  the  sitting-room. 
She  flung  off  her  hat  and  shawl.  Her  old  dress  was 
damp,  and  had  still  some  earth  stains  on  it ;  her  hair  was 
roughened  by  the  wind,  but  she  would  not  look  again  in 
the  glass ;  she  went  into  the  sitting-room  just  as  she  was. 

"  It's  Mr.  Nye,  Louisa,"  said  her  mother,  with  effusion. 

"  Good-evenin',  Mr.  Nye,"  said  Louisa. 

Jonathan  Nye  half  arose  and  extended  his  hand,  but 
she  did  not  notice  it.  She  sat  down  peremptorily  in  a  chair 
at  the  other  side  of  the  room.  Jonathan  had  the  one  rock 
ing-chair  ;  Mrs.  Britton's  frail  little  body  was  poised  anx 
iously  on  the  hard  rounded  top  of  the  carpet-covered  lounge. 
She  looked  at  Louisa's  dress  and  hair,  and  her  eyes  were 
stony  with  disapproval,  but  her  lips  still  smirked,  and  she  kept 
her  voice  sweet.  She  pointed  to  a  glass  dish  on  the  table. 

"  See  what  Mr.  Nye  has  brought  us  over,  Louisa,"  said 

Louisa  looked  indifferently  at  the  dish. 

"  It's  honey,"  said  her  mother ;  "  some  of  his  own  bees 
made  it.  Don't  you  want  to  get  a  dish  an'  taste  of  it? 
One  of  them  little  glass  sauce  dishes." 

"  No,  I  guess  not,"  replied  Louisa.  "  I  never  cared 
much  about  honey.  Grandfather  '11  like  it." 

The  smile  vanished  momentarily  from  Mrs.  Britton's  lips, 
but  she  recovered  herself.  She  arose  and  went  across  the 

LOUISA.  39 ! 

room  to  the  china  closet.  Her  set  of  china  dishes  was  on 
the  top  shelves,  the  lower  were  filled  with  books  and  papers. 
"  I've  got  somethin'  to  show  you,  Mr.  Nye,"  said  she. 

This  was  scarcely  more  than  a  hamlet,  but  it  was  incor 
porated,  and  had  its  town  books.  She  brought  forth  a  pile 
of  them,  and  laid  them  on  the  table  beside  Jonathan  Nye. 
"  There,"  said  she,  "  I  thought  mebbe  you'd  like  to  look  at 
these."  She  opened  one  and  pointed  to  the  school  report. 
This  mother  could  not  display  her  daughter's  accomplish 
ments  to  attract  a  suitor,  for  she  had  none.  Louisa  did 
not  own  a  piano  or  organ;  she  could  not  paint j  but  she 
had  taught  school  acceptably  for  eight  years — ever  since 
she  was  sixteen — and  in  every  one  of  the  town  books  was 
testimonial  to  that  effect,  intermixed  with  glowing  eulogy. 
Jonathan  Nye  looked  soberly  through  the  books ;  he  was 
a  slow  reader.  He  was  a  few  years  older  than  Louisa,  tall 
and  clumsy,  long-featured  and  long-necked.  His  face  was 
a  deep  red  with  embarrassment,  and  it  contrasted  oddly 
with  his  stiff  dignity  of  demeanor. 

Mrs.  Britton  drew  a  chair  close  to  him  while  he  read. 
"  You  see,  Louisa  taught  that  school  for  eight  year,"  said 
she ;  "  an'  she'd  be  teachin'  it  now  if  Mr.  Mosely's  daugh 
ter  hadn't  grown  up  an'  wanted  somethin'  to  do,  an'  he  put 
her  in.  He  was  committee,  you  know.  I  dun'  know  as  I'd 
ought  to  say  so,  an'  I  wouldn't  want  you  to  repeat  it,  but 
they  do  say  Ida  Mosely  don't  give  very  good  satisfaction, 
an7 1  guess  she  won't  have  no  reports  like  these  in  the  town 
books  unless  her  father  writes  'em.  See  this  one." 

Jonathan  Nye  pondered  over  the  fulsome  testimony  to 
Louisa's  capability,  general  worth,  and  amiability,  while  she 
sat  in  sulky  silence  at  the  farther  corner  of  the  room.  Once 
in  a  while  her  mother,  after  a  furtive  glance  at  Jonathan, 

392  LOUISA. 

engrossed  in  a  town  book,  would  look  at  her  and  gesticu 
late  fiercely  for  her  to  come  over,  but  she  did  not  stir.  Her 
eyes  were  dull  and  quiet,  her  mouth  closely  shut ;  she  looked 
homely.  Louisa  was  very  pretty  when  pleased  and  animated, 
at  other  times  she  had  a  look  like  a  closed  flower.  One 
could  see  no  prettiness  in  her. 

Jonathan  Nye  read  all  the  school  reports ;  then  he  arose 
heavily.  "They're  real  good,"  said  he.  He  glanced  at 
Louisa  and  tried  to  smile  \  his  blushes  deepened. 

"  Now  don't  be  in  a  hurry,"  said  Mrs.  Britton. 

"I  guess  I'd  better  be  goin';  mother's  alone." 

"  She  won't  be  afraid ;  it's  jest  on  the  edge  of  the  evenin'." 

"  I  don't  know  as  she  will.  But  I  guess  I'd  better  be 
goin'."  He  looked  hesitatingly  at  Louisa. 

She  arose  and  stood  with  an  indifferent  air. 

"  You'd  better  set  down  again,"  said  Mrs.  Britton. 

"No;  I  guess  I'd  better  be  goin'."  Jonathan  turned 
towards  Louisa.  "  Good-evenin',"  said  he. 


Mrs.  Britton  followed  him  to  the  door.  She  looked  back 
and  beckoned  imperiously  to  Louisa,  but  she  stood  still. 
"  Now  come  again,  do,"  Mrs.  Britton  said  to  the  departing 
caller.  "  Run  in  any  time ;  we're  real  lonesome  evenin's. 
Father  he  sets  an'  sleeps  in  his  chair,  an'  Louisa  an'  me 
often  wish  somebody  'd  drop  in  ;  folks  round  here  ain't  none 
too  neighborly.  Come  in  any  time  you  happen  to  feel  like 
it,  an'  we'll  both  of  us  be  glad  to  see  you.  Tell  your  mother 
I'll  send  home  that  dish  to-morrer,  an'  we  shall  have  a  real 
feast  off  that  beautiful  honey." 

When  Mrs.  Britton  had  fairly  shut  the  outer  door  upon 
Jonathan  Nye,  she  came  back  into  the  sitting-room  as  if 
her  anger  had  a  propelling  power  like  steam  upon  her  body. 

LOUISA.  393 

"Now,  Louisa  Britton,"  said  she,  "you'd  ought  to  be 
ashamed  of  yourself — ashamed  of  yourself !  You've  treated 
him  like  a — hog !" 

"  I  couldn't  help  it." 

"  Couldn't  help  it !  I  guess  you  could  treat  anybody  de 
cent  if  you  tried.  I  never  saw  such  actions !  I  guess  you 
needn't  be  afraid  of  him.  I  guess  he  ain't  so  set  on  you 
that  he  means  to  ketch  you  up  an'  run  off.  There's  other 
girls  in  town  full  as  good  as  you  an'  better-lookin'.  Why 
didn't  you  go  an'  put  on  your  other  dress?  Comin'  into 
the  room  with  that  old  thing  on,  an'  your  hair  all  in  a  frowse ! 
I  guess  he  won't  want  to  come  again." 

"  I  hope  he  won't,"  said  Louisa,  under  her  breath.  She 
was  trembling  all  over. 

"What  say?" 

"  Nothin'." 

"  I  shouldn't  think  you'd  want  to  say  anything,  treatin' 
him  that  way,  when  he  came  over  and  brought  all  that 
beautiful  honey !  He  was  all  dressed  up,  too.  He  had  on 
a  real  nice  coat — cloth  jest  as  fine  as  it  could  be,  an'  it  was 
kinder  damp  when  he  come  in.  Then  he  dressed  all  up 
to  come  over  here  this  rainy  night  an'  bring  this  honey." 
Mrs.  Britton  snatched  the  dish  of  honey  and  scudded  into 
the  kitchen  with  it.  "  Sayin'  you  didn't  like  honey  after 
he  took  all  that  pains  to  bring  it  over !"  said  she.  "  I'd 
said  I  liked  it  if  I'd  lied  up  hill  and  down."  She  set  the 
dish  in  the  pantry.  "  What  in  creation  smells  so  kinder 
strong  an'  smoky  in  here  ?"  said  she,  sharply. 

"  I  guess  it's  the  herrin'.  I  got  two  or  three  down  to 
the  store." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  you  got  herrin'  for  ?" 

"  I  thought  maybe  you'd  relish  'em." 



"  I  don't  want  no  herrin's,  now  we've  got  this  honey. 
But  I  don't  know  that  you've  got  money  to  throw  away."  She 
shook  the  old  man  by  the  stove  into  partial  wakefulness, 
and  steered  him  into  his  little  bedroom  off  the  kitchen.  She 
herself  slept  in  one  off  the  sitting-rooms ;  Louisa's  room  was 

Louisa  lighted  her  candle  and  went  to  bed,  her  mother's 
scolding  voice  pursuing  her  like  a  wrathful  spirit.  She 
cried  when  she  was  in  bed  in  the  dark,  but  she  soon  went 
to  sleep.  She  was  too  healthfully  tired  with  her  out-door 
work  not  to.  All  her  young  bones  ached  with  the  strain 
of  manual  labor  as  they  had  ached  many  a  time  this  last 
year  since  she  had  lost  her  school. 

The  Brittons  had  been  and  were  in  sore  straits.  All 
they  had  in  the  world  was  this  little  house  with  the  acre 
of  land.  Louisa's  meagre  school  money  had  bought  their 
food  and  clothing  since  her  father  died.  Now  it  was  al 
most  starvation  for  them.  Louisa  was  struggling  to  wrest 
a  little  sustenance  from  their  stony  acre  of  land,  toiling  like 
a  European  peasant  woman,  sacrificing  her  New  England 
dignity.  Lately  she  had  herself  split  up  a  cord  of  wood 
which  she  had  bought  of  a  neighbor,  paying  for  it  in  instal 
ments  with  work  for  his  wife. 

"Think  of  a  school-teacher  goin'  into  Mis'  Mitchell's 
house  to  help  clean  !"  said  her  mother. 

She,  although  she  had  been  of  poor,  hard-working  people 
all  her  life,  with  the  humblest  surroundings,  was  a  born  aris 
tocrat,  with  that  fiercest  and  most  bigoted  aristocracy  which 
sometimes  arises  from  independent  poverty.  She  had  the 
feeling  of  a  queen  for  a  princess  of  the  blood  about  her 
school-teacher  daughter ;  her  working  in  a  neighbor's  kitch 
en  was  as  galling  and  terrible  to  her.  The  projected  mar- 

LOUISA.  395 

riage  with  Jonathan  Nye  was  like  a  royal  alliance  for  the 
good  of  the  state.  Jonathan  Nye  was  the  only  eligible 
young  man  in  the  place;  he  was  the  largest  land-owner; 
he  had  the  best  house.  There  were  only  himself  and  his 
mother ;  after  her  death  the  property  would  all  be  his. 
Mrs.  Nye  was  an  older  woman  than  Mrs.  Britton,  who  for 
got  her  own  frailty  in  calculating  their  chances  of  life. 

"  Mis'  Nye  is  considerable  over  seventy,"  she  said  often 
to  herself;  "an'  then  Jonathan  will  have  it  all." 

She  saw  herself  installed  in  that  large  white  house  as 
reigning  dowager.  All  the  obstacle  was  Louisa's  obsti 
nacy,  which  her  mother  could  not  understand.  She  could 
see  no  fault  in  Jonathan  Nye.  So  far  as  absolute  approval 
went,  she  herself  was  in  love  with  him.  There  was  no 
more  sense,  to  her  mind,  in  Louisa's  refusing  him  than 
there  would  have  been  in  a  princess  refusing  the  fairy  prince 
and  spoiling  the  story. 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  you've  got  against  him,"  she  said 
often  to  Louisa. 

"  I  ain't  got  anything  against  him." 

"Why  don't  you  treat  him  different,  then,  I  want  to 

"  I  don't  like  him."  Louisa  said  "  like  "  shamefacedly, 
for  she  meant  love,  and  dared  not  say  it. 

"Like!  Well,  I  don't  know  nothin'  about  such  likin's 
as  some  pretend  to,  an'  I  don't  want  to.  If  I  see  anybody 
is  good  an'  worthy,  I  like  'em,  an'  that's  all  there  is  about  it." 

"  I  don't — believe  that's  the  way  you  felt  about — father," 
said  Louisa,  softly,  her  young  face  flushed  red. 

"Yes,  it  was.     I  had  some  common-sense  about  it." 

And  Mrs.  Britton  believed  it.  Many  hard  middle-aged 
years  lay  between  her  and  her  own  love-time,  and  nothing 

396  LOUISA. 

is  so  changed  by  distance  as  the  realities  of  youth.  She 
believed  herself  to  have  been  actuated  by  the  same  calm 
reason  in  marrying  young  John  Britton,  who  had  had  fair 
prospects,  which  she  thought  should  actuate  her  daughter 
in  marrying  Jonathan  Nye. 

Louisa  got  no  sympathy  from  her,  but  she  persisted  in 
her  refusal.  She  worked  harder  and  harder.  She  did  not 
spare  herself  in  doors  or  out.  As  the  summer  wore  on  her 
face  grew  as  sunburnt  as  a  boy's,  her  hands  were  hard  and 
brown.  When  she  put  on  her  white  dress  to  go  to  meeting 
on  a  Sunday  there  was  a  white  ring  around  her  neck  where 
the  sun  had  not  touched  it.  Above  it  her  face  and  neck 
showed  browner.  Her  sleeves  were  rather  short,  and  there 
were  also  white  rings  above  her  brown  wrists. 

"You  look  as  if  you  were  turnin'  Injun  by  inches,"  said 
her  mother. 

Louisa,  when  she  sat  in  the  meeting-house,  tried  slyly  to 
pull  her  sleeves  down  to  the  brown  on  her  wrists  ;  she  gave 
a  little  twitch  to  the  ruffle  around  her  neck.  Then  she 
glanced  across,  and  Jonathan  Nye  was  looking  at  her. 
She  thrust  her  hands,  in  their  short-wristed,  loose  cotton 
gloves,  as  far  out  of  the  sleeves  as  she  could ;  her  brown 
wrists  showed  conspicuously  on  her  white  lap.  She  had 
never  heard  of  the  princess  who  destroyed  her  beauty  that 
she  might  not  be  forced  to  wed  the  man  whom  she  did  not 
love,  but  she  had  something  of  the  same  feeling,  although 
she  did  not  have  it  for  the  sake  of  any  tangible  lover.  Lou 
isa  had  never  seen  anybody  whom  she  would  have  preferred 
to  Jonathan  Nye.  There  was  no  other  marriageable  young 
man  in  the  place.  She  had  only  her  dreams,  which  she 
had  in  common  with  other  girls. 

That  Sunday  evening  before  she  went  to  meeting  her 

LOUISA.  397 

mother  took  some  old  wide  lace  out  of  her  bureau  drawer. 
"  There,"  said  she,  "  I'm  goin'  to  sew  this  in  your  neck  an' 
sleeves  before  you  put  your  dress  on.  It  '11  cover  up  a  little ; 
it's  wider  than  the  ruffle." 

"  I  don't  want  it  in,"  said  Louisa. 

"  I'd  like  to  know  why  not  ?  You  look  like  a  fright.  I 
was  ashamed  of  you  this  mornin'." 

Louisa  thrust  her  arms  into  the  white  dress  sleeves  per 
emptorily.  Her  mother  did  not  speak  to  her  all  the  way 
to  meeting.  After  meeting,  Jonathan  Nye  walked  home 
with  them,  and  Louisa  kept  on  the  other  side  of  her  mother. 
He  went  into  the  house  and  stayed  an  hour.  Mrs.  Britton 
entertained  him,  while  Louisa  sat  silent.  When  he  had 
gone,  she  looked  at  her  daughter  as  if  she  could  have  used 
bodily  force,  but  she  said  nothing.  She  shot  the  bolt  of 
the  kitchen  door  noisily.  Louisa  lighted  her  candle.  The 
old  man's  loud  breathing  sounded  from  his  room ;  he  had 
been  put  to  bed  for  safety  before  they  went  to  meeting; 
through  the  open  windows  sounded  the  loud  murmur  of  the 
summer  night,  as  if  that,  too,  slept  heavily. 

"  Good-night,  mother,"  said  Louisa,  as  she  went  up-stairs ; 
but  her  mother  did  not  answer. 

The  next  day  was  very  warm.  This  was  an  exception 
ally  hot  summer.  Louisa  went  out  early  ;  her  mother  would 
not  ask  her  where  she  was  going.  She  did  not  come  home 
until  noon.  Her  face  was  burning ;  her  wet  dress  clung  to 
her  arms  and  shoulders. 

"  Where  have  you  been  ?"  asked  her  mother. 

"Oh,  I've  been  out  in  the  field." 

"What  field?" 

"  Mr.  Mitchell's." 

"  What  have  you  been  doin'  out  there  ?" 

39g  LOUISA. 

"  Rakin'  hay." 

"  Rakin'  hay  with  the  men  ?" 

"There  wasn't  anybody  but  Mr.  Mitchell  and  Johnny. 
Don't,  mother !" 

Mrs.  Britton  had  turned  white.  She  sank  into  a  chair. 
"  I  can't  stan'  it  nohow,"  she  moaned.  "  All  the  daughter 
I've  got." 

"  Don't,  mother !  I  ain't  done  any  harm.  What  harm 
is  it  ?  Why  can't  I  rake  hay  as  well  as  a  man  ?  Lots  of 
women  do  such  things,  if  nobody  round  here  does.  He's 
goin'  to  pay  me  right  off,  and  we  need  the  money.  Don't, 
mother  !"  Louisa  got  a  tumbler  of  water.  "  Here,  mother, 
drink  this." 

Mrs.  Britton  pushed  it  away.  Louisa  stood  looking  anx 
iously  at  her.  Lately  her  mother  had  grown  thinner  than 
ever ;  she  looked  scarcely  bigger  than  a  child.  Presently 
she  got  up  and  went  to  the  stove. 

"  Don't  try  to  do  anything,  mother ;  let  me  finish  getting 
dinner,"  pleaded  Louisa.  She  tried  to  take  the  pan  of  bis 
cuits  out  of  her  mother's  hands,  but  she  jerked  it  away. 

The  old  man  was  sitting  on  the  door-step,  huddled  up 
loosely  in  the  sun,  like  an  old  dog. 

"  Come,  father,"  Mrs.  Britton  called,  in  a  dry  voice, 
"  dinner's  ready — what  there  is  of  it !" 

The  old  man  shuffled  in,  smiling. 

There  was  nothing  for  dinner  but  the  hot  biscuits  and 
tea.  The  fare  was  daily  becoming  more  meagre.  All  Lou 
isa's  little  hoard  of  school  money  was  gone,  and  her  earn 
ings  were  very  uncertain  and  slender.  Their  chief  depend 
ence  for  food  through  the  summer  was  their  garden,  but 
that  had  failed  them  in  some  respects. 

One  day  the  old  man  had  come  in  radiant,  with  his  shak- 

LOUISA.  399 

ing  hands  full  of  potato  blossoms ;  his  old  eyes  twinkled 
over  them  like  a  mischievous  child's.  Reproaches  were 
useless ;  the  little  potato  crop  was  sadly  damaged.  Lately, 
in  spite  of  close  watching,  he  had  picked  the  squash  blos 
soms,  piling  them  in  a  yellow  mass  beside  the  kitchen  door. 
Still,  it  was  nearly  time  for  the  pease  and  beans  and  beets ; 
they  would  keep  them  from  starvation  while  they  lasted. 

But  when  they  came,  and  Louisa  could  pick  plenty  of 
green  food  every  morning,  there  was  still  a  difficulty :  Mrs. 
Britton's  appetite  and  digestion  were  poor ;  she  could  not 
live  upon  a  green-vegetable  diet  \  and  the  old  man  missed 
his  porridge,  for  the  meal  was  all  gone. 

One  morning  in  August  he  cried  at  the  breakfast-table 
like  a  baby,  because  he  wanted  his  porridge,  and  Mrs.  Brit- 
ton  pushed  away  her  own  plate  with  a  despairing  gesture. 

"  There  ain't  no  use,"  said  she.  "  I  can't  eat  no  more 
garden-sauce  nohow.  I  don't  blame  poor  father  a  mite. 
You  ain't  got  no  feelin'  at  all." 

"  I  don't  know  what  I  can  do ;  I've  worked  as  hard  as  I 
can,"  said  Louisa,  miserably. 

"  I  know  what  you  can  do,  and  so  do  you." 

"No,  I  don't,  mother,"  returned  Louisa,  with  alacrity. 
"  He  ain't  been  here  for  two  weeks  now,  and  I  saw  him 
with  my  own  eyes  yesterday  carryin'  a  dish  into  the  Mose- 
lys',  and  I  knew  'twas  honey.  I  think  he's  after  Ida." 

"  Carryin'  honey  into  the  Moselys'  ?     I  don't  believe  it." 

"  He  was  ;  I  saw  him." 

"  Well,  I  don't  care  if  he  was.  If  you're  a  mind  to  act 
decent  now,  you  can  bring  him  round  again.  He  was  dead 
set  on  you,  an'  I  don't  believe  he's  changed  round  to  that 
Mosely  girl  as  quick  as  this." 

"  You  don't  want  me  to  ask  him  to  come  back  here,  do  you  ?' 

400  LOUISA. 

"  I  want  you  to  act  decent.  You  can  go  to  meetin'  to 
night,  if  you're  a  mind  to— I  sha'n't  go ;  I  ain't  got  strength 
'nough — an'  'twouldn't  hurt  you  none  to  hang  hack  a  little 
after  meetin',  and  kind  of  edge  round  his  way.  'Twouldn't 
take  more'n  a  look." 

"  Mother !" 

"Well,  I  don't  care.  'Twouldn't  hurt  you  none.  It's 
the  way  more'n  one  girl  does,  whether  you  believe  it  or  not. 
Men  don't  do  all  the  courtin' — not  by  a  long  shot.  'Twon't 
hurt  you  none.  You  needn't  look  so  scart." 

Mrs.  Britton's  own  face  was  a  burning  red.  She  looked 
angrily  away  from  her  daughter's  honest,  indignant  eyes. 

"  I  wouldn't  do  such  a  thing  as  that  for  a  man  I  liked," 
said  Louisa ;  "  and  I  certainly  sha'n't  for  a  man  I  don't 

"  Then  me  an'  your  grandfather  '11  starve,"  said  her  moth 
er  ;  "  that's  all  there  is  about  it.  We  can't  neither  of  us 
stan'  it  much  longer." 

"  We  could— " 

"Could  what?" 

"  Put  a — little  mortgage  on  the  house." 

Mrs.  Britton  faced  her  daughter.  She  trembled  in  every 
inch  of  her  weak  frame.  "  Put  a  mortgage  on  this  house, 
an'  by-an'-by  not  have  a  roof  to  cover  us  !  Are  you  crazy  ? 
I  tell  you  what  'tis,  Louisa  Britton,  we  may  starve,  your 
grandfather  an'  me,  an'  you  can  follow  us  to  the  graveyard 
over  there,  but  there's  only  one  way  I'll  ever  put  a  mort 
gage  on  this  house.  If  you  have  Jonathan  Nye,  I'll  ask 
him  to  take  a  little  one  to  tide  us  along  an'  get  your  wed- 
din'  things." 

"  Mother,  I'll  tell  you  what  I'm  goin'  to  do." 


LOUISA.  401 

"  I  am  goin'  to  ask  Uncle  Solomon." 

"I  guess  when  Solomon  Mears  does  anythin'  for  us 
you'll  know  it.  He  never  forgave  your  father  about  that 
wood  lot,  an'  he's  hated  the  whole  of  us  ever  since.  When 
I  went  to  his  wife's  funeral  he  never  answered  when  I  spoke 
to  him.  I  guess  if  you  go  to  him  you'll  take  it  out  in 

Louisa  said  nothing  more.  She  began  clearing  away  the 
breakfast  dishes  and  setting  the  house  to  rights.  Her 
mother  was  actually  so  weak  that  she  could  scarcely  stand, 
and  she  recognized  it.  She  had  settled  into  the  rocking- 
chair,  and  leaned  her  head  back.  Her  face  looked  pale 
and  sharp  against  the  dark  calico  cover. 

When  the  house  was  in  order,  Louisa  stole  up-stairs  to 
her  own  chamber.  She  put  on  her  clean  old  blue  muslin 
and  her  hat,  then  she  went  slyly  down  and  out  the  front 

It  was  seven  miles  to  her  uncle  Solomon  Mears's,  and 
she  had  made  up  her  mind  to  walk  them.  She  walked 
quite  swiftly  until  the  house  windows  were  out  of  sight, 
then  she  slackened  her  pace  a  little.  It  was  one  of  the 
fiercest  dog-days.  A  damp  heat  settled  heavily  down  upon 
the  earth  ;  the  sun  scalded. 

At  the  foot  of  the  hill  Louisa  passed  a  house  where  one 
of  her  girl  acquaintances  lived.  She  was  going  in  the  gate 
with  a  pan  of  early  apples.  "  Hullo,  Louisa,"  she  called. 

"Hullo,  Vinnie." 

"  Where  you  goin'  ?" 

"  Oh,  I'm  goin'  a  little  way." 

"Ain't  it  awful  hot?  Say,  Louisa,  do  you  know  Ida 
Mosely's  cuttin'  you  out  ?" 

"  She's  welcome." 



The  other  girl,  who  was  larger  and  stouter  than  Louisa, 
with  a  sallow,  unhealthy  face,  looked  at  her  curiously.  "  I 
don't  see  why  you  wouldn't  have  him,"  said  she.  "  I  should 
have  thought  you'd  jumped  at  the  chance." 

"  Should  you  if  you  didn't  like  him,  I'd  like  to  know  ?" 

"  I'd  like  him  if  he  had  such  a  nice  house  and  as  much 
money  as  Jonathan  Nye,"  returned  the  other  girl. 

She  offered  Louisa  some  apples,  and  she  went  along  the 
road  eating  them.  She  herself  had  scarcely  tasted  food 
that  day. 

It  was  about  nine  o'clock;  she  had  risen  early.  She 
calculated  how  many  hours  it  would  take  her  to  walk  the 
seven  miles.  She  walked  as  fast  as  she  could  to  hold  out. 
The  heat  seemed  to  increase  as  the  sun  stood  higher.  She 
had  walked  about  three  miles  when  she  heard  wheels  be 
hind  her.  Presently  a  team  stopped  at  her  side. 

"  Good-mornin',"  said  an  embarrassed  voice. 

She  looked  around.  It  was  Jonathan  Nye,  with  his  gray 
horse  and  light  wagon. 

"  Good-mornin',''  said  she. 

"Coin' far?" 

11 A  little  ways." 

"Won't  you— ride?" 

"  No,  thank  you.     I  guess  I'd  rather  walk." 

Jonathan  Nye  nodded,  made  an  inarticulate  noise  in  his 
throat,  and  drove  on.  Louisa  watched  the  wagon  bowling 
lightly  along.  The  dust  flew  back.  She  took  out  her 
handkerchief  and  wiped  her  dripping  face. 

It  was  about  noon  when  she  came  in  sight  of  her  uncle 
Solomon  Mears's  house  in  Wolfsborough.  It  stood  far  back 
from  the  road,  behind  a  green  expanse  of  untrodden  yard. 
The  blinds  on  the  great  square  front  were  all  closed;  it 

LOUISA.  403 

looked  as  if  everybody  were  away.  Louisa  went  around 
to  the  side  door.  It  stood  wide  open.  There  was  a  thin 
blue  cloud  of  tobacco  smoke  issuing  from  it.  Solomon 
Mears  sat  there  in  the  large  old  kitchen  smoking  his  pipe. 
On  the  table  near  him  was  an  empty  bowl ;  he  had  just 
eaten  his  dinner  of  bread  and  milk.  He  got  his  own  din 
ner,  for  he  had  lived  alone  since  his  wife  died.  He  looked 
at  Louisa.  Evidently  he  did  not  recognize  her. 

"  How  do  you  do,  Uncle  Solomon  ?"  said  Louisa. 

"Oh,  it's  John  Britton's  daughter !     How  d'ye  do ?" 

He  took  his  pipe  out  of  his  mouth  long  enough  to  speak, 
then  replaced  it.  His  eyes,  sharp  under  their  shaggy  brows, 
were  fixed  on  Louisa ;  his  broad  bristling  face  had  a  look 
of  stolid  rebuff  like  an  ox  ;  his  stout  figure,  in  his  soiled  far 
mer  dress,  surged  over  his  chair.  He  sat  full  in  the  door 
way.  Louisa  standing  before  him,  the  perspiration  trick 
ling  over  her  burning  face,  set  forth  her  case  with  a  certain 
dignity.  This  old  man  was  her  mother's  nearest  relative. 
He  had  property  and  to  spare.  Should  she  survive  him, 
it  would  be  hers,  unless  willed  away.  She,  with  her  unso 
phisticated  sense  of  justice,  had  a  feeling  that  he  ought  to 
help  her. 

The  old  man  listened.  When  she  stopped  speaking  he 
took  the  pipe  out  of  his  mouth  slowly,  and  stared  gloom 
ily  past  her  at  his  hay  field,  where  the  grass  was  now  a  green 

"  I  ain't  got  no  money  I  can  spare  jest  now,"  said  he. 
"I  s'pose  you  know  your  father  cheated  me  out  of  con- 
sider'ble  once  ?" 

"  We  don't  care  so  much  about  money,  if  you  have  got 
something  you  could  spare  to — eat.  We  ain't  got  anything 
but  garden-stuff. " 

404  LOUISA. 

Solomon  Hears  still  frowned  past  her  at  the  hay  field. 
Presently  he  arose  slowly  and  went  across  the  kitchen. 
Louisa  sat  down  on  the  door-step  and  waited.  Her  uncle 
was  gone  quite  a  while.  She,  too,  stared  over  at  the  field, 
which  seemed  to  undulate  like  a  lake  in  the  hot  light. 

"  Here's  some  things  you  can  take,  if  you  want  'em,"  said 
her  uncle,  at  her  back. 

She  got  up  quickly.  He  pointed  grimly  to  the  kitchen 
table.  He  was  a  deacon,  an  orthodox  believer ;  he  recog 
nized  the  claims  of  the  poor,  but  he  gave  alms  as  a  soldier 
might  yield  up  his  sword.  Benevolence  was  the  result  of 
warfare  with  his  own  conscience. 

On  the  table  lay  a  ham,  a  bag  of  meal,  one  of  flour,  and 
a  basket  of  eggs. 

"  I'm  afraid  I  can't  carry  'em  all,"  said  Louisa. 

"  Leave  what  you  can't  then."  Solomon  caught  up  his 
hat  and  went  out.  He  muttered  something  about  not 
spending  any  more  time  as  he  went. 

Louisa  stood  looking  at  the  packages.  It  was  utterly 
impossible  for  her  to  carry  them  all  at  once.  She  heard 
her  uncle  shout  to  some  oxen  he  was  turning  out  of  the 
barn.  She  took  up  the  bag  of  meal  and  the  basket  of  eggs 
and  carried  them  out  to  the  gate  ;  then  she  returned,  got  the 
flour  and  ham,  and  went  with  them  to  a  point  beyond.  Then 
she  returned  for  the  meal  and  eggs,  and  carried  them  past 
the  others.  In  that  way  she  traversed  the  seven  miles  home. 
The  heat  increased.  She  had  eaten  nothing  since  morning 
but  the  apples  that  her  friend  had  given  her.  Her  head  was 
swimming,  but  she  kept  on.  Her  resolution  was  as  immov 
able  under  the  power  of  the  sun  as  a  rock.  Once  in  a  while 
she  rested  for  a  moment  under  a  tree,  but  she  soon  arose 
and  went  on.  It  was  like  a  pilgrimage,  and  the  Mecca  at 

LOUISA.  405 

the  end  of  the  burning,  desert-like  road  was  her  own  maiden 

It  was  after  eight  o'clock  when  she  reached  home.  Her 
mother  stood  in  the  doorway  watching  for  her,  straining  her 
eyes  in  the  dusk. 

"  For  goodness  sake,  Louisa  Britton  !  where  have  you 
been  ?"  she  began ;  but  Louisa  laid  the  meal  and  eggs 
down  on  the  step. 

"  I've  got  to  go  back  a  little  ways,"  she  panted. 

When  she  returned  with  the  flour  and  ham,  she  could 
hardly  get  into  the  house.  She  laid  them  on  the  kitchen 
table,  where  her  mother  had  put  the  other  parcels,  and  sank 
into  a  chair. 

"  Is  this  the  way  you've  brought  all  these  things  home  ?" 
asked  her  mother. 

Louisa  nodded. 

"  All  the  way  from  Uncle  Solomon's  ?" 


Her  mother  went  to  her  and  took  her  hat  off.  "It's  a 
mercy  if  you  ain't  got  a  sunstroke,"  said  she,  with  a  sharp 
tenderness.  "  I've  got  somethin'  to  tell  you.  What  do  you 
s'pose  has  happened  ?  Mr.  Mosely  has  been  here,  an'  he 
wants  you  to  take  the  school  again  when  it  opens  next  week. 
He  says  Ida  ain't  very  well,  but  I  guess  that  ain't  it.  They 
think  she's  goin'  to  get  somebody.  Mis'  Mitchell  says  so. 
She's  been  in.  She  says  he's  carryin'  things  over  there  the 
whole  time,  but  she  don't  b'lieve  there's  anything  settled 
"  yet.  She  says  they  feel  so  sure  of  it  they're  goin'  to  have 
Ida  give  the  school  up.  I  told  her  I  thought  Ida  would 
make  him  a  good  wife,  an'  she  was  easier  suited  than  some 
girls.  What  do  you  s'pose  Mis'  Mitchell  says  ?  She  says 
old  Mis'  Nye  told  her  that  there  was  one  thing  about  it :  if 

406  LOUISA. 

Jonathan  had  you,  he  wa'n't  goin'  to  have  me  an'  father 
hitched  on  to  him ;  he'd  look  out  for  that.  I  told  Mis' 
Mitchell  that  I  guess  there  wa'n't  none  of  us  willin'  to  hitch, 
you  nor  anybody  else.  I  hope  she'll  tell  Mis'  Nye.  Now  I'm 
a-goin'  to  turn  you  out  a  tumbler  of  milk — Mis'  Mitchell  she 
brought  over  a  whole  pitcherful ;  says  she's  got  more'n  they 
can  use — they  ain't  got  no  pig  now — an'  then  you  go  an' 
lay  down  on  the  sittin'-room  lounge,  an'  cool  off;  an'  I'll 
stir  up  some  porridge  for  supper,  an'  boil  some  eggs.  Fa 
ther  '11  be  tickled  to  death.  Go  right  in  there.  I'm  dread 
ful  afraid  you'll  be  sick.  I  never  heard  of  anybody  doin' 
such  a  thing  as  you  have." 

Louisa  drank  the  milk  and  crept  into  the  sitting-room. 
It  was  warm  and  close  there,  so  she  opened  the  front  door 
and  sat  down  on  the  step.  The  twilight  was  deep,  but  there 
was  a  clear  yellow  glow  in  the  west.  One  great  star  had 
come  out  in  the  midst  of  it.  A  dewy  coolness  was  spread 
ing  over  everything.  The  air  was  full  of  bird  calls  and 
children's  voices.  Now  and  then  there  was  a  shout  of  laugh 
ter.  Louisa  leaned  her  head  against  the  door-post. 

The  house  was  quite  near  the  road.  Some  one  passed 
—  a  man  carrying  a  basket.  Louisa  glanced  at  him,  and 
recognized  Jonathan  Nye  by  his  gait.  He  kept  on  down 
the  road  toward  the  Moselys',  and  Louisa  turned  again  from 
him  to  her  sweet,  mysterious,  girlish  dreams. 


"  I  NEVER  heard  of  a  woman's  bein'  saxton." 
"  I  dun'  know  what  difference  that  makes;  I  don't  see  why 
they  shouldn't  have  women  saxtons  as  well  as  men  saxtons, 
for  my  part,  nor  nobody  else  neither.  They'd  keep  dusted 
'nough  sight  cleaner.  I've  seen  the  dust  layin'  on  my  pew 
thick  enough  to  write  my  name  in  a  good  many  times,  an* 
ain't  said  nothin'  about  it.  An'  I  ain't  goin'  to  say  nothin' 
now  again  Joe  Sowen,  now  he's  dead  an'  gone.  He  did  jest 
as  well  as  most  men  do.  Men  git  in  a  good  many  places 
where  they  don't  belong,  an'  where  they  set  as  awkward  as 
a  cow  on  a  hen-roost,  jest  because  they  push  in  ahead  of 
women.  I  ain't  blamin'  'em  ;  I  s'pose  if  I  could  push  in  I 
should,  jest  the  same  way.  But  there  ain't  no  reason  that  I 
can  see,  nor  nobody  else  neither,  why  a  woman  shouldn't  be 

Hetty  Fifield  stood  in  the  rowen  hay-field  before  Caleb 
Gale.  He  was  a  deacon,  the  chairman  of  the  selectmen, 
and  the  rich  and  influential  man  of  the  village.  One  look 
ing  at  him  would  not  have  guessed  it.  There  was  nothing 
imposing  about  his  lumbering  figure  in  his  calico  shirt  and 
baggy  trousers.  However,  his  large  face,  red  and  moist 
with  perspiration,  scanned  the  distant  horizon  with  a  stiff 
and  reserved  air  ;  he  did  not  look  at  Hetty. 

4o8  A    CHURCH  MOUSE. 

"  How'd  you  go  to  work  to  ring  the  bell  ?"  said  he.  "  It 
would  have  to  be  tolled,  too,  if  anybody  died." 

"  I'd  jest  as  lief  ring  that  little  meetin'-house  bell  as  to 
stan'  out  here  an'  jingle  a  cow-bell,"  said  Hetty ;  "  an*  as 
for  tollin',  I'd  jest  as  soon  toll  the  bell  for  Methusaleh,  if  he 
was  livin'  here  !  I'd  laugh  if  I  ain't  got  strength  'nough  for 

"  It  takes  a  kind  of  a  knack." 

"  If  I  ain't  got  as  much  knack  as  old  Joe  Sowen  ever  had, 
I'll  give  up  the  ship." 

"  You  couldn't  tend  the  fires." 

"  Couldn't  tend  the  fires — when  I've  cut  an'  carried  in  all 
the  wood  I've  burned  for  forty  year !  Couldn't  keep  the 
fires  a-goin'  in  them  two  little  wood-stoves  !" 

"  It's  consider'ble  work  to  sweep  the  meetin'-house." 

"  I  guess  I've  done  'bout  as  much  work  as  to  sweep  that 
little  meetin'-house,  I  ruther  guess  I  have." 

"There's  one  thing  you  ain't  thought  of." 

"  What's  that  ?" 

"  Where'd  you  live  ?  All  old  Sowen  got  for  bein'  saxton 
was  twenty  dollar  a  year,  an'  we  couldn't  pay  a  woman  so 
much  as  that.  You  wouldn't  have  enough  to  pay  for  your 
livin'  anywheres." 

"  Where  am  I  goin'  to  live  whether  I'm  saxton  or  not  ?" 

Caleb  Gale  was  silent. 

There  was  a  wind  blowing,  the  rowen  hay  drifted  round 
Hetty  like  a  brown -green  sea  touched  with  ripples  of  blue 
and  gold  by  the  asters  and  golden-rod.  She  stood  in  the 
midst  of  it  like  a  May-weed  that  had  gathered  a  slender 
toughness  through  the  long  summer;  her  brown  cotton 
gown  clung  about  her  like  a  wilting  leaf,  outlining  her  harsh 
little  form.  She  was  as  sallow  as  a  squaw,  and  she  had 

A   CHURCH  MOUSh.  409 

pretty  black  eyes ;  they  were  bright,  although  she  was  old. 
She  kept  them  fixed  upon  Caleb.  Suddenly  she  raised  her 
self  upon  her  toes ;  the  wind  caught  her  dress  and  made  it 
blow  out ;  her  eyes  flashed.  "  I'll  tell  you  where  I'm  goin' 
to  live,"  said  she.  "Fm  goin'  to  live  in  the  meetirt -house" 

Caleb  looked  at  her.    "  Goin'  to  live  in  the  meetin '-house  F 

"Yes,  I  be." 

"  Live  in  the  meetin'-house  !" 

"  I'd  like  to  know  why  not." 

"Why — you  couldn't — live  in  the  meetin'-house.  You're 

Caleb  flung  out  the  rake  which  he  was  holding,  and  drew 
it  in  full  of  rowen.  Hetty  moved  around  in  front  of  him, 
he  raked  imperturbably  j  she  moved  again  right  in  the  path 
of  the  rake,  then  he  stopped.  "  There  ain't  no  sense  in  such 

"  All  I  want  is  jest  the  east  corner  of  the  back  gall'ry, 
where  the  chimbly  goes  up.  I'll  set  up  my  cookin'-stove 
there,  an'  my  bed,  an*  I'll  curtain  it  off  with  my  sunflower 
quilt,  to  keep  off  the  wind." 

"  A  cookin'-stove  an'  a  bed  in  the  meetin'-house !" 

"  Mis'  Grout  she  give  me  that  cookin'-stove,  an'  that  bed 
I've  allers  slept  on,  before  she  died.  She  give  'em  to  me 
before  Mary  Anne  Thomas,  an'  I  moved  'em  out.  They  air 
settin'  out  in  the  yard  now,  an7  if  it  rains  that  stove  an'  that 
bed  will  be  spoilt.  It  looks  some  like  rain  now.  I  guess 
you'd  better  give  me  the  meetin'-house  key  right  off." 

"You  don't  think  you  can  move  that  cookin'-stove  an' 
that  bed  into  the  meetin'-house — I  ain't  goin'  to  stop  to 
hear  such  talk." 

"  My  worsted-work,  all  my  mottoes  I've  done,  an'  my 
wool  flowers,  air  out  there  in  the  yard," 

410  A    CHURCH  MOUSE. 

Caleb  raked.  Hetty  kept  standing  herself  about  until  he 
was  forced  to  stop,  or  gather  her  in  with  the  rowen  hay.  He 
looked  straight  at  her,  and  scowled  ;  the  perspiration  trickled 
down  his  cheeks.  "  If  I  go  up  to  the  house  can  Mis'  Gale 
git  me  the  key  to  the  meetin'-house  ?"  said  Hetty. 

"  No,  she  can't." 

"Be  you  goin'  up  before  long?" 

"No,  I  ain't."  Suddenly  Caleb's  voice  changed  :  it  had 
been  full  of  stubborn  vexation,  now  it  was  blandly  argu 
mentative.  "  Don't  you  see  it  ain't  no  use  talkin'  such  non 
sense,  Hetty?  You'd  better  go  right  along,  an'  make  up 
your  mind  it  ain't  to  be  thought  of." 

"  Where  be  I  goin'  to-night,  then  ?" 

"  To-night  ?" 

"Yes;  where  be  I  a-goin'?" 

"  Ain't  you  got  any  place  to  go  to  ?" 

"  Where  do  you  s'pose  I've  got  any  place  ?  Them  folks 
air  movin'  into  Mis'  Grout's  house,  an'  they  as  good  as  told 
me  to  clear  out.  I  ain't  got  no  folks  to  take  me  in.  I 
dun'  know  where  I'm  goin' ;  mebbe  I  can  go  to  your  house  ?" 

Caleb  gave  a  start.  "  We've  got  company  to  home,"  said 
he,  hastily.  "I'm  'fraid  Mis'  Gale  wouldn't  think  it  was 

Hetty  laughed.  "  Most  everybody  in  the  town  has  got 
company,"  said  she. 

Caleb  dug  his  rake  into  the  ground  as  if  it  were  a  hoe, 
then  he  leaned  on  it,  and  stared  at  the  horizon.  There  was 
a  fringe  of  yellow  birches  on  the  edge  of  the  hay-field ;  be 
yond  them  was  a  low  range  of  misty  blue  hills.  "  You  ain't 
got  no  place  to  go  to,  then  ?" 

"I  dun'  know  of  any.  There  ain't  no  poor-house  here,  an' 
I  ain't  got  no  folks." 



Caleb  stood  like  a  statue.  Some  crows  flew  cawing  over 
the  field.  Hetty  waited.  "  I  s'pose  that  key  is  where  Mis' 
Gale  can  find  it?"  she  said,  finally. 

Caleb  turned  and  threw  out  his  rake  with  a  jerk.  "  She 
knows  where  'tis ;  it's  hangin'  up  behind  the  settin'-room 
door.  I  s'pose  you  can  stay  there  to-night,  as  long  as  you  ain't 
got  no  other  place.  We  shall  have  to  see  what  can  be  done." 

Hetty  scuttled  off  across  the  field.  "  You  mustn't  take 
no  stove  nor  bed  into  the  meetin'-house,"  Caleb  called  after 
ner ;  "  we  can't  have  that,  nohow." 

Hetty  went  on  as  if  she  did  not  hear. 

The  golden-rod  at  the  sides  of  the  road  was  turning 
brown  ;  the  asters  were  in  their  prime,  blue  and  white  ones  ; 
here  and  there  were  rows  of  thistles  with  white  tops.  The 
dust  was  thick ;  Hetty,  when  she  emerged  from  Caleb's 
house,  trotted  along  in  a  cloud  of  it.  She  did  not  look  to 
the  right  or  left,  she  kept  her  small  eager  face  fixed  straight 
ahead,  and  moved  forward  like  some  little  animal  with  th«s 
purpose  to  which  it  was  born  strong  within  it. 

Presently  she  came  to  a  large  cottage-house  on  the  right 
of  the  road  ;  there  she  stopped.  The  front  yard  was  full  of 
furniture,  tables  and  chairs  standing  among  the  dahlias  and 
clumps  of  marigolds.  Hetty  leaned  over  the  fence  at  one 
corner  of  the  yard,  and  inspected  a  little  knot  of  household 
goods  set  aside  from  the  others.  There  were  a  small  cook 
ing-stove,  a  hair  trunk,  a  yellow  bedstead  stacked  up  against 
the  fence,  and  a  pile  of  bedding.  Some  children  in  the  yard 
stood  in  a  group  and  eyed  Hetty.  A  woman  appeared  in 
the  door — she  was  small,  there  was  a  black  smutch  on  her 
face,  which  was  haggard  with  fatigue,  and  she  scowled  in 
the  sun  as  she  looked  over  at  Hetty.  "  Well,  got  a  place  to 
stay  in  ?"  said  she,  in  an  unexpectedly  deep  voice. 

412  A    CHURCH  MOUSE. 

"  Yes,  I  guess  so,"  replied  Hetty. 

"  I  dun'  know  how  in  the  world  I  can  have  you.  All  the 
beds  will  be  full  —  I  expect  his  mother  some  to-night,  an' 
I'm  dreadful  stirred  up  anyhow." 

"  Everybody's  havin'  company ;  I  never  see  anything  like 
it."  Hetty's  voice  was  inscrutable.  The  other  woman 
looked  sharply  at  her. 

"  You've  got  a  place,  ain't  you  ?"  she  asked,  doubtfully. 

"Yes,  I  have." 

At  the  left  of  this  house,  quite  back  from  the  road,  was  a 
little  unpainted  cottage,  hardly  more  than  a  hut.  There 
was  smoke  coming  out  of  the  chimney,  and  a  tall  youth 
lounged  in  the  door.  Hetty,  with  the  woman  and  children 
staring  after  her,  struck  out  across  the  field  in  the  little  foot 
path  towards  the  cottage.  "  I  wonder  if  she's  goin'  to  stay 
there  ?"  the  woman  muttered,  meditating. 

The  youth  did  not  see  Hetty  until  she  was  quite  near 
him,  then  he  aroused  suddenly  as  if  from  sleep,  and  tried 
to  slink  off  around  the  cottage.  But  Hetty  called  after  him. 
"  Sammy,"  she  cried,  "  Sammy,  come  back  here,  I  want  you !" 

"  What  d'ye  want  ?" 

"  Come  back  here  !" 

The  youth  lounged  back  sulkily,  and  a  tall  woman  came 
to  the  door.  She  bent  out  of  it  anxiously  to  hear  Hetty. 

"  I  want  you  to  come  an'  help  me  move  my  stove  an' 
things,"  said  Hetty. 

«  Where  to  ?" 

"  Into  the  meetin'-house." 

"  The  meetin'-house  ?" 

"  Yes,  the  meetin'-house." 

The  woman  in  the  door  had  sodden  hands ;  behind  her 
arose  the  steam  of  a  wash-tub.  She  and  the  youth  stared 



at  Hetty,  but  surprise  was  too  strong  an  emotion  for  them 
to  grasp  firmly. 

"  I  want  Sammy  to  come  right  over  an'  help  me,"  said 

"  He  ain't  strong  enough  to  move  a  stove,"  said  the 

"  Ain't  strong  enough  !" 

"  He's  apt  to  git  lame." 

"  Most  folks  are.  Guess  I've  got  lame.  Come  right 
along,  Sammy !" 

"  He  ain't  able  to  lift  much." 

"  I  s'pose  he's  able  to  be  lifted,  ain't  he  ?" 

"  I  dun'  know  what  you  mean." 

"  The  stove  don't  weigh  nothin',"  said  Hetty ;  "  I  could 
carry  it  myself  if  I  could  git  hold  of  it.  Come,  Sam 
my  !" 

Hetty  turned  down  the  path,  and  the  youth  moved  a 
little  way  after  her,  as  if  perforce.  Then  he  stopped,  and 
cast  an  appealing  glance  back  at  his  mother.  Her  face 
was  distressed.  "  Oh,  Sammy,  I'm  afraid  you'll  git  sick," 
said  she. 

"  No,  he  ain't  goin'  to  git  sick,"  said  Hetty.  "  Come, 
Sammy."  And  Sammy  followed  her  down  the  path. 

It  was  four  o'clock  then.  At  dusk  Hetty  had  her  gay 
sunflower  quilt  curtaining  off  the  chimney-corner  of  the 
church  gallery ;  her  stove  and  little  bedstead  were  set  up, 
and  she  had  entered  upon  a  life  which  endured  successfully 
for  three  months.  All  that  time  a  storm  brewed ;  then  it 
broke ;  but  Hetty  sailed  in  her  own  course  for  the  three 

It  was  on  a  Saturday  that  she  took  up  her  habitation  in 
the  meeting-house.  The  next  morning,  when  the  boy  who 

4 14  A   CHURCH  MOUSE. 

had  been  supplying  the  dead  sexton's  place  came  and  shook 
the  door,  Hetty  was  prompt  on  the  other  side.  "  Deacon 
Gale  said  for  you  to  let  me  in  so  I  could  ring  the  bell," 
called  the  boy. 

"Go  away,"  responded  Hetty.  "I'm  goin'  to  ring  the 
bell ;  I'm  saxton." 

Hetty  rang  the  bell  with  vigor,  but  she  made  a  wild,  irreg 
ular  jangle  at  first ;  at  the  last  it  was  better.  The  village 
people  said  to  each  other  that  a  new  hand  was  ringing. 
Only  a  few  knew  that  Hetty  was  in  the  meeting-house. 
When  the  congregation  had  assembled,  and  saw  that  gaudy 
tent  pitched  in  the  house  of  the  Lord,  and  the  resolute 
little  pilgrim  at  the  door  of  it,  there  was  a  commotion. 
The  farmers  and  their  wives  were  stirred  out  of  their  Sab 
bath  decorum.  After  the  service  was  over,  Hetty,  sitting 
in  a  pew  corner  of  the  gallery,  her  little  face  dark  and 
watchful  against  the  flaming  background  of  her  quilt,  saw 
the  people  below  gathering  in  groups,  whispering,  and  look 
ing  at  her. 

Presently  the  minister,  Caleb  Gale,  and  the  other  deacon 
came  up  the  gallery  stairs.  Hetty  sat  stiffly  erect.  Caleb 
Gale  went  up  to  the  sunflower  quilt,  slipped  it  aside,  and 
looked  in.  He  turned  to  Hetty  with  a  frown.  To-day  his 
dignity  was  supported  by  important  witnesses.  "  Did  you 
bring  that  stove  an'  bedstead  here  ?" 

Hetty  nodded. 

"What  made  you  do  such  a  thing?" 

"  What  was  I  goin'  to  do  if  I  didn't  ?  How's  a  woman 
as  old  as  me  goin'  to  sleep  in  a  pew,  an'  go  without  a  cup 
of  tea?" 

The  men  looked  at  each  other.  They  withdrew  to  an 
other  corner  of  the  gallery  and  conferred  in  low  tones} 


then  they  went  down-stairs  and  out  of  the  church.  Hetty 
smiled  when  she  heard  the  door  shut.  When  one  is  hard 
pressed,  one,  however  simple,  gets  wisdom  as  to  vantage- 
points.  Hetty  comprehended  hers  perfectly.  She  was  the 
propounder  of  a  problem  ;  as  long  as  It  was  unguessed,  she 
was  sure  of  her  foothold  as  propounder.  This  little  village 
in  which  she  had  lived  all  her  life  had  removed  the  shelter 
from  her  head ;  she  being  penniless,  it  was  beholden  to 
provide  her  another;  she  asked  it  what.  When  the  old 
woman  with  whom  she  had  lived  died,  the  town  promptly 
seized  the  estate  for  taxes — none  had  been  paid  for  years. 
Hetty  had  not  laid  up  a  cent ;  indeed,  for  the  most  of  the 
time  she  had  received  no  wages.  There  had  been  no  money 
in  the  house ;  all  she  had  gotten  for  her  labor  for  a  sickly, 
impecunious  old  woman  was  a  frugal  board.  When  the 
old  woman  died,  Hetty  gathered  in  the  few  household  arti 
cles  for  which  she  had  stipulated,  and  made  no  complaint. 
She  walked  out  of  the  house  when  the  new  tenants  came 
in ;  all  she  asked  was,  "  What  are  you  going  to  do  with 
me  ?"  This  little  settlement  of  narrow-minded,  prosperous 
farmers,  however  hard  a  task  charity  might  be  to  them, 
^ould  not  turn  an  old  woman  out  into  the  fields  and  high 
ways  to  seek  for  food  as  they  would  a  Jersey  cow.  They 
had  their  Puritan  consciences,  and  her  note  of  distress 
would  sound  louder  in  their  ears  than  the  Jersey's  bell 
echoing  down  the  valley  in  the  stillest  night.  But  the 
question  as  to  Hetty  Fifield's  disposal  was  a  hard  one  to 
answer.  There  was  no  almshouse  in  the  village,  and  no 
private  family  was  willing  to  take  her  in.  Hetty  was  strong 
and  capable ;  although  she  was  old,  she  could  well  have 
paid  for  her  food  and  shelter  by  her  labor ;  but  this  could 
not  secure  her  an  entrance  even  among  this  hard-working 


and  thrifty  people,  who  would  ordinarily  grasp  quickly 
enough  at  service  without  wage  in  dollars  and  cents.  Hetty 
had  somehow  gotten  for  herself  an  unfortunate  name  in 
the  village.  She  was  held  in  the  light  of  a  long-thorned 
brier  among  the  beanpoles,  or  a  fierce  little  animal  with 
claws  and  teeth  bared.  People  were  afraid  to  take  her  into 
their  families ;  she  had  the  reputation  of  always  taking  her 
own  way,  and  never  heeding  the  voice  of  authority.  "  I'd 
take  her  in  an'  have  her  give  me  a  lift  with  the  work,"  said 
one  sickly  farmer's  wife ;  "  but,  near's  I  can  find  out,  I 
couldn't  never  be  sure  that  I'd  get  molasses  in  the  beans, 
nor  saleratus  in  my  sour-milk  cakes,  if  she  took  a  notion 
not  to  put  it  in.  I  don't  dare  to  risk  it." 

Stories  were  about  concerning  Hetty's  authority  over  the 
old  woman  with  whom  she  had  lived.  "  Old  Mis'  Grout 
never  dared  to  say  her  soul  was  her  own,"  people  said. 
Then  Hetty's  sharp,  sarcastic  sayings  were  repeated ;  the 
justice  of  them  made  them  sting.  People  did  not  want  a 
tongue  like  that  in  their  homes. 

Hetty  as  a  church  sexton  was  directly  opposed  to  all 
their  ideas  of  church  decorum  and  propriety  in  general ; 
her  pitching  her  tent  in  the  Lord's  house  was  almost  sacri 
lege  ;  but  what  could  they  do  ?  Hetty  jangled  the  Sabbath 
bells  for  the  three  months ;  once  she  tolled  the  bell  for  an 
old  man,  and  it  seemed  by  the  sound  of  the  bell  as  if  his 
long,  calm  years  had  swung  by  in  a  weak  delirium  \  but 
people  bore  it.  She  swept  and  dusted  the  little  meeting 
house,  and  she  garnished  the  walls  with  her  treasures  of 
worsted-work.  The  neatness  and  the  garniture  went  far  to 
quiet  the  dissatisfaction  of  the  people.  They  had  a  crude 
taste.  Hetty's  skill  in  fancy-work  was  quite  celebrated. 
Her  wool  flowers  were  much  talked  of,  and  young  girls 



tried  to  copy  them.  So  these  wreaths  and  clusters  of  red 
and  blue  and  yellow  wool  roses  and  lilies  hung  as  accepta 
bly  between  the  meeting-house  windows  as  pictures  of  saints 
in  a  cathedral. 

Hetty  hung  a  worsted  motto  over  the  pulpit  j  on  it  she 
set  her  chiefest  treasure  of  art,  a  white  wax  cross  with  an 
ivy  vine  trailing  over  it,  all  covered  with  silver  frost-work. 
Hetty  always  surveyed  this  cross  with  a  species  of  awe  ;  she 
felt  the  irresponsibility  and  amazement  of  a  genius  at  his 
own  work. 

When  she  set  it  on  the  pulpit,  no  queen  casting  her  rich 
robes  and  her  jewels  upon  a  shrine  could  have  surpassed 
her  in  generous  enthusiasm.  "  I  guess  when  they  see  that 
they  won't  say  no  more,"  she  said. 

But  the  people,  although  they  shared  Hetty's  admiration 
for  the  cross,  were  doubtful.  They,  looking  at  it,  had  a 
double  vision  of  a  little  wax  Virgin  upon  an  altar.  They 
wondered  if  it  savored  of  popery.  But  the  cross  remained, 
and  the  minister  was  mindful  not  to  jostle  it  in  his  gestures. 

It  was  three  months  from  the  time  Hetty  took  up  her 
abode  in  the  church,  and  a  week  before  Christmas,  when 
the  problem  was  solved.  Hetty  herself  precipitated  the 
solution.  She  prepared  a  boiled  dish  in  the  meeting-house, 
upon  a  Saturday,  and  the  next  day  the  odors  of  turnip  and 
cabbage  were  strong  in  the  senses  of  the  worshippers.  They 
sniffed  and  looked  at  one  another.  This  superseding  the 
legitimate  savor  of  the  sanctuary,  the  fragrance  of  pepper 
mint  lozenges  and  wintergreen,  the  breath  of  Sunday  clothes, 
by  the  homely  week-day  odors  of  kitchen  vegetables,  was  too 
much  for  the  sensibilities  of  the  people.  They  looked  in 
dignantly  around  at  Hetty,  sitting  before  her  sunflower 
hanging,  comfortable  from  her  good  dinner  of  the  day  be- 

418  A   CHURCH  MOUSE. 

fore,  radiant  with  the  consciousness  of  a  great  plateful  of 
cold  vegetables  in  her  tent  for  her  Sabbath  dinner. 

Poor  Hetty  had  not  many  comfortable  dinners.  The  se 
lectmen  doled  out  a  small  weekly  sum  to  her,  which  she 
took  with  dignity  as  being  her  hire  ;  then  she  had  a  mild 
forage  in  the  neighbors'  cellars  and  kitchens,  of  poor  apples 
and  stale  bread  and  pie,  paying  for  it  in  teaching  her  art  of 
worsted-work  to  the  daughters.  Her  Saturday's  dinner  had 
been  a  banquet  to  her:  she  had  actually  bought  a  piece  of 
pork  to  boil  with  the  vegetables ;  somebody  had  given  her 
a.  nice  little  cabbage  and  some  turnips,  without  a  thought  of 
the  limitations  of  her  housekeeping.  Hetty  herself  had  not 
a  thought.  She  made  the  fires  as  usual  that  Sunday  morn 
ing  ;  the  meeting-house  was  very  clean,  there  was  not  a 
speck  of  dust  anywhere,  the  wax  cross  on  the  pulpit  glis 
tened  in  a  sunbeam  slanting  through  the  house.  Hetty, 
sitting  in  the  gallery,  thought  innocently  how  nice  it  looked. 

After  the  meeting,  Caleb  Gale  approached  the  other  dea 
con.  "  Somethin's  got  to  be  done,"  said  he.  And  the  other 
deacon  nodded.  He  had  not  smelt  the  cabbage  until  his 
wife  nudged  him  and  mentioned  it ;  neither  had  Caleb  Gale. 

In  the  afternoon  of  the  next  Thursday,  Caleb  and  the 
other  two  selectmen  waited  upon  Hetty  in  her  tabernacle. 
They  stumped  up  the  gallery  stairs,  and  Hetty  emerged 
from  behind  the  quilt  and  stood  looking  at  them  scared 
and  defiant.  The  three  men  nodded  stiffly ;  there  was  a 
pause ;  Caleb  Gale  motioned  meaningly  to  one  of  the  oth 
ers,  who  shook  his  head ;  finally  he  himself  had  to  speak. 
"  I'm  'fraid  you  find  it  pretty  cold  here,  don't  you,  Hetty  ?" 
said  he. 

"  No,  thank  ye  ;  it's  very  comfortable,"  replied  Hetty,  po 
lite  and  wary- 


"  It  ain't  very  convenient  for  you  to  do  your  cookin'  here, 
I  guess." 

"  It's  jest  as  convenient  as  I  want.    I  don't  find  no  fault" 

"  I  guess  it's  rayther  lonesome  here  nights,  ain't  it  ?" 

"  I'd  'nough  sight  ruther  be  alone  than  have  comp'ny,  any 

"  It  ain't  fit  for  an  old  woman  like  you  to  be  livin'  alone 
here  this  way." 

"Well,  I  dun'  know  of  anything  that's  any  fitter;  mebbe 
you  do." 

Caleb  looked  appealingly  at  his  companions ;  they  stood 
stiff  and  irresponsive.  Hetty's  eyes  were  sharp  and  watch 
ful  upon  them  all. 

41  Well,  Hetty,"  said  Caleb,  "  we've  found  a  nice,  comforta 
ble  place  for  you,  an'  I  guess  you'd  better  pack  up  your 
things,  an'  I'll  carry  you  right  over  there."  Caleb  stepped 
back  a  little  closer  to  the  other  men.  Hetty,  small  and 
trembling  and  helpless  before  them,  looked  vicious.  She 
was  like  a  little  animal  driven  from  its  cover,  for  whom  there 
is  nothing  left  but  desperate  warfare  and  death. 

"  Where  to  ?"  asked  Hetty.  Her  voice  shrilled  up  into  a 

Caleb  hesitated.  He  looked  again  at  the  other  selectmen. 
There  was  a  solemn,  far-away  expression  upon  their  faces. 
"  Well,"  said  he,  "  Mis'  Radway  wants  to  git  somebody, 

"You  ain't  goin'  to  take  me  to  that  woman's!" 

"You'd  be  real  comfortable—" 

"  I  ain't  goin'." 

"  Now,  why  not,  I'd  like  to  know  ?" 

"  I  don't  like  Susan  Radway,  hain't  never  liked  her,  an' 
I  ain't  goin'  to  live  with  her." 


"  Mis'  Radway's  a  good  Christian  woman.  You  hadn't 
ought  to  speak  that  way  about  her." 

"  You  know  what  Susan  Radway  is,  jest  as  well's  I  do ;  an' 
everybody  else  does  too.  I  ain't  goin'  a  step,  an'  you  might 
jest  as  well  make  up  your  mind  to  it." 

Then  Hetty  seated  herself  in  the  corner  of  the  pew  near 
est  her  tent,  and  folded  her  hands  in  her  lap.  She  looked 
over  at  the  pulpit  as  if  she  were  listening  to  preaching.  She 
panted,  and  her  eyes  glittered,  but  she  had  an  immovable 

"  Now,  Hetty,  you've  got  sense  enough  to  know  you  can't 
stay  here,"  said  Caleb.  "You'd  better  put  on  your  bon 
net,  an'  come  right  along  before  dark.  You'll  have  a  nide 

Hetty  made  no  response. 

The  three  men  stood  looking  at  her.  "  Come,  Hetty," 
said  Caleb,  feebly ;  and  another  selectman  spoke.  "  Yes, 
you'd  better  come,"  he  said,  in  a  mild  voice. 

Hetty  continued  to  stare  at  the  pulpit. 

The  three  men  withdrew  a  little  and  conferred.  They 
did  not  know  how  to  act.  This  was  a  new  emergency  in 
their  simple,  even  lives.  They  were  not  constables ;  these 
three  steady,  sober  old  men  did  not  want  to  drag  an  old 
woman  by  main  force  out  of  the  meeting-house,  and  thrust 
her  into  Caleb  Gale's  buggy  as  if  it  were  a  police  wagon. 

Finally  Caleb  brightened.  "  I'll  go  over  an'  git  mother," 
said  he.  He  started  with  a  brisk  air,  and  went  down  the 
gallery  stairs ;  the  others  followed.  They  took  up  their 
stand  in  the  meeting-house  yard,  and  Caleb  got  into  his 
buggy  and  gathered  up  the  reins.  The  wind  blew  cold 
over  the  hill.  "  Hadn't  you  better  go  inside  and  wait  out 
of  the  wind  ?"  said  Caleb. 


"I  guess  we'll  wait  out  here,"  replied  one ;  and  the  other 

"  Well,  I  sha'n't  be  gone  long,"  said  Caleb.  "  Mother'li 
know  how  to  manage  her."  He  drove  carefully  down  the 
hill ;  his  buggy  wings  rattled  in  the  wind.  The  other  men 
pulled  up  their  coat  collars,  and  met  the  blast  stubbornly. 

"  Pretty  ticklish  piece  of  business  to  tackle,"  said  one,  in 
a  low  grunt. 

"  That's  so,"  assented  the  other.  Then  they  were  silent, 
and  waited  for  Caleb.  Once  in  a  while  they  stamped  their 
feet  and  slapped  their  mittened  hands.  They  did  not  hear 
Hetty  slip  the  bolt  and  turn  the  key  of  the  meeting-house 
door,  nor  see  her  peeping  at  them  from  a  gallery  window. 

Caleb  returned  in  twenty  minutes ;  he  had  not  far  to  go. 
His  wife,  stout  and  handsome  and  full  of  vigor,  sat  beside 
him  in  the  buggy.  Her  face  was  red  with  the  cold  wind ; 
her  thick  cashmere  shawl  was  pinned  tightly  over  her  broad 
bosom.  "  Has  she  come  down  yet  ?"  she  called  out,  in  an 
imperious  way. 

The  two  selectmen  shook  their  heads.  Caleb  kept  the 
horse  quiet  while  his  wife  got  heavily  and  briskly  out  of  the 
buggy.  She  went  up  the  meeting-house  steps,  and  reached 
out  confidently  to  open  the  door.  Then  she  drew  back  and 
looked  around.  "  Why,"  said  she,  "  the  door's  locked  ;  she's 
locked  the  door.  I  call  this  pretty  work  !" 

She  turned  again  quite  fiercely,  and  began  beating  on  the 
door.  "  Hetty  !"  she  called  ;  "  Hetty,  Hetty  Fifield !  Let 
me  in  !  What  have  you  locked  this  door  for  ?" 

She  stopped  and  turned  to  her  husband. 

"  Don't  you  s'pose  the  barn  key  would  unlock  it  ?"  she 

"  I  don't  b'lieve  'twould." 

422  A    CHURCH  MOUSE. 

"  Well,  you'd  better  go  home  and  fetch  it." 

Caleb  again  drove  down  the  hill,  and  the  other  men 
searched  their  pockets  for  keys.  One  had  the  key  of  his 
corn-house,  and  produced  it  hopefully ;  but  it  would  not  un 
lock  the  meeting-house  door. 

A  crowd  seldom  gathered  in  the  little  village  for  anything 
short  of  a  fire  \  but  to-day  in  a  short  time  quite  a  number 
of  people  stood  on  the  meeting-house  hill,  and  more  kept 
coming.  When  Caleb  Gale  returned  with  the  barn  key  his 
daughter,  a  tall,  pretty  young  girl,  sat  beside  him,  her  little 
face  alert  and  smiling  in  her  red  hood.  The  other  select 
men's  wives  toiled  eagerly  up  the  hill,  with  a  young  daugh 
ter  of  one  of  them  speeding  on  ahead.  Then  the  two  young 
girls  stood  close  to  each  other  and  watched  the  proceedings. 
Key  after  key  was  tried ;  men  brought  all  the  large  keys 
they  could  find,  running  importantly  up  the  hill,  but  none 
would  unlock  the  meeting-house  door.  After  Caleb  had 
tried  the  last  available  key,  stooping  and  screwing  it  anx 
iously,  he  turned  around.  "There  ain't  no  use  in  it,  any 
way,"  said  he ;  "  most  likely  the  door's  bolted." 

"  You  don't  mean  there's  a  bolt  on  that  door  ?"  cried  his 

"Yes,  there  is." 

"  Then  you  might  jest  as  well  have  tore  'round  for  hen's 
feathers  as  keys.  Of  course  she's  bolted  it  if  she's  got  any 
wit,  an'  I  guess  she's  got  most  as  much  as  some  of  you  men 
that  have  been  bringin'  keys.  Try  the  windows." 

But  the  windows  were  fast.  Hetty  had  made  her  sacred 
castle  impregnable  except  to  violence.  Either  the  door 
would  have  to  be  forced  or  a  window  broken  to  gain  an 

The  people  conferred  with  one  another.     Some  were  for 

A    CHURCH  MOUSE.  423 

retreating,  and  leaving  Hetty  in  peaceful  possession  until 
time  drove  her  to  capitulate.  "  She'll  open  it  to-morrow," 
they  said.  Others  were  for  extreme  measures,  and  their  im 
petuosity  gave  them  the  lead.  The  project  of  forcing  the 
door  was  urged ;  one  man  started  for  a  crow-bar. 

"  They  are  a  parcel  of  fools  to  do  such  a  thing,"  said 
Caleb  Gale's  wife  to  another  woman.  "  Spoil  that  good 
door  !  They'd  better  leave  the  poor  thing  alone  till  to-mor 
row.  I  dun'  know  what's  goin'  to  be  done  with  her  when  they 
git  in.  I  ain't  goin'  to  have  father  draggin'  her  over  to  Mis' 
Radway's  by  the  hair  of  her  head." 

"  That's  jest  what  I  say,"  returned  the  other  woman. 

Mrs.  Gale  went  up  to  Caleb  and  nudged  him.  "  Don't 
you  let  them  break  that  door  down,  father,"  said  she. 

"  Well,  well,  we'll  see,"  Caleb  replied.  He  moved  away 
a  little ;  his  wife's  voice  had  been  drowned  out  lately  by  a 
masculine  clamor,  and  he  took  advantage  of  it. 

All  the  people  talked  at  once ;  the  wind  was  keen,  and 
all  their  garments  fluttered ;  the  two  young  girls  had  their 
arms  around  each  other  under  their  shawls ;  the  man  with 
the  crow-bar  came  stalking  up  the  hill. 

"  Don't  you  let  them  break  down  that  door,  father,"  said 
Mrs.  Gale. 

"Well,  well,"  grunted  Caleb. 

Regardless  of  remonstrances,  the  man  set  the  crow-bar 
against  the  door ;  suddenly  there  was  a  cry,  "  There  she  is  !" 
Everybody  looked  up.  There  was  Hetty  looking  out  of  a 
gallery  window. 

Everybody  was  still.  Hetty  began  to  speak.  Her  dark 
old  face,  peering  out  of  the  window,  looked  ghastly ;  the 
wind  blew  her  poor  gray  locks  over  it.  She  extended  her 
little  wrinkled  hands.  "Jest  let  me  say  one  word,"  said 

424  A   CHURCH  MOUSE. 

she;  "jest  one  word."  Her  voice  shook.  All  her  cool 
ness  was  gone.  The  magnitude  of  her  last  act  of  defiance 
had  caused  it  to  react  upon  herself  like  an  overloaded  gun. 

"  Say  all  you  want  to,  Hetty,  an'  don't  be  afraid,"  Mrs. 
Gale  called  out. 

"  I  jest  want  to  say  a  word,"  repeated  Hetty.  "  Can't  I 
stay  here,  nohow  ?  It  don't  seem  as  if  I  could  go  to  Mis' 
Radway's.  I  ain't  nothin'  again'  her.  I  s'pose  she's  a 
good  woman,  but  she's  used  to  havin'  her  own  way,  and 
I've  been  livin'  all  my  life  with  them  that  was,  an'  I've  had 
to  fight  to  keep  a  footin'  on  the  earth,  an'  now  I'm  gittin' 
too  old  for't.  If  I  can  jest  stay  here  in  the  meetin'-house, 
I  won't  ask  for  nothin'  any  better.  I  sha'n't  need  much  to 
keep  me,  I  wa'n't  never  a  hefty  eater ;  an'  I'll  keep  the 
meetin'-house  jest  as  clean  as  I  know  how.  An'  I'll  make 
some  more  of  them  wool  flowers.  I'll  make  a  wreath  to 
go  the  whole  length  of  the  gallery,  if  I  can  git  wool  'nough. 
Won't  you  let  me  stay  ?  I  ain't  complainin',  but  I've  always 
had  a  dretful  hard  time ;  seems  as  if  now  I  might  take  a 
little  comfort  the  last  of  it,  if  I  could  stay  here.  I  can't  go 
to  Mis'  Radway's  nohow."  Hetty  covered  her  face  with 
her  hands ;  her  words  ended  in  a  weak  wail. 

Mrs.  Gale's  voice  rang  out  clear  and  strong  and  irre 
pressible.  "  Of  course  you  can  stay  in  the  meetin'-house," 
said  she  ;  "  I  should  laugh  if  you  couldn't.  Don't  you  worry 
another  mite  about  it.  You  sha'n't  go  one  step  to  Mis' 
Radway's  ;  you  couldn't  live  a  day  with  her.  You  can  stay 
jest  where  you  are  ;  you've  kept  the  meetin'-house  enough 
sight  cleaner  than  I've  ever  seen  it.  Don't  you  worry  an 
other  mite,  Hetty." 

Mrs.  Gale  stood  majestically,  and  looked  defiantly  around  j 
tears  were  in  her  eyes.  Another  woman  edged  up  to  her. 


"  Why  couldn't  she  have  that  little  room  side  of  the  pulpit, 
where  the  minister  hangs  his  hat?"  she  whispered.  "He 
could  hang  it  somewhere  else." 

"  Course  she  could,"  responded  Mrs.  Gale,  with  alacrity, 
"jest  as  well  as  not.  The  minister  can  have  a  hook  in  the 
entry  for  his  hat.  She  can  have  her  stove  an'  her  bed  in 
there,  an'  be  jest  as  comfortable  as  can  be.  I  should  laugh 
if  she  couldn't.  Don't  you  worry,  Hetty." 

The  crowd  gradually  dispersed,  sending  out  stragglers 
down  the  hill  until  it  was  all  gone.  Mrs.  Gale  waited  until 
the  last,  sitting  in  the  buggy  in  state.  When  her  husband 
gathered  up  the  reins,  she  called  back  to  Hetty:  "Don't 
you  worry  one  mite  more  about  it,  Hetty.  I'm  comin'  up 
to  see  you  in  the  mornin'!" 

It  was  almost  dusk  when  Caleb  drove  down  the  hill ;  he 
was  the  last  of  the  besiegers,  and  the  feeble  garrison  was 
left  triumphant. 

The  next  day  but  one  was  Christmas,  the  next  night 
Christmas  Eve.  On  Christmas  Eve  Hetty  had  reached 
what  to  her  was  the  flood-tide  of  peace  and  prosperity. 
Established  in  that  small,  lofty  room,  with  her  bed  and  her 
stove,  with  gifts  of  a  rocking-chair  and  table,  and  a  goodly 
store  of  food,  with  no  one  to  molest  or  disturb  her,  she  had 
nothing  to  wish  for  on  earth.  All  her  small  desires  were 
satisfied.  No  happy  girl  could  have  a  merrier  Christmas 
than  this  old  woman  with  her  little  measure  full  of  gifts. 
That  Christmas  Eve  Hetty  lay  down  under  her  sunflower 
quilt,  and  all  her  old  hardships  looked  dim  in  the  distance, 
like  far-away  hills,  while  her  new  joys  came  out  like  stars. 

She  was  a  light  sleeper  •  the  next  morning  she  was  up 
early.  She  opened  the  meeting-house  door  and  stood  look 
ing  out.  The  smoke  from  the  village  chimneys  had  not 

426  A    CHURCH  MOUSE. 

yet  begun  to  rise  blue  and  rosy  in  the  clear  frosty  air. 
There  was  no  snow,  but  over  all  the  hill  there  was  a  silver 
rime  of  frost;  the  bare  branches  of  the  trees  glistened. 
Hetty  stood  looking.  "Why,  it's  Christmas  mornin',''  she 
said,  suddenly.  Christmas  had  never  been  a  gala-day  to 
this  old  woman.  Christmas  had  not  been  kept  at  all  in 
this  New  England  village  when  she  was  young.  She  was 
led  to  think  of  it  now  only  in  connection  with  the  dinner 
Mrs.  Gale  had  promised  to  bring  her  to-day. 

Mrs.  Gale  had  told  her  she  should  have  some  of  her 
Christmas  dinner,  some  turkey  and  plum-pudding.  She 
called  it  to  mind  now  with  a  thrill  of  delight.  Her  face 
grew  momentarily  more  radiant.  There  was  a  certain 
beauty  in  it.  A  finer  morning  light  than  that  which  lit  up 
the  wintry  earth  seemed  to  shine  over  the  furrows  of  her 
old  face.  "  I'm  goin'  to  have  turkey  an'  plum-puddin'  to 
day,"  said  she  ;  "  it's  Christmas."  Suddenly  she  started, 
and  went  into  the  meeting-house,  straight  up  the  gallery 
stairs.  There  in  a  clear  space  hung  the  bell-rope.  Hetty 
grasped  it.  Never  before  had  a  Christmas  bell  been  rung 
in  this  village ;  Hetty  had  probably  never  heard  of  Christ 
mas  bells.  She  was  prompted  by  pure  artless  enthusiasm 
and  grateful  happiness.  Her  old  arms  pulled  on  the  rope 
with  a  will,  the  bell  sounded  peal  on  peal.  Down  in  the 
village,  curtains  rolled  up,  letting  in  the  morning  light, 
happy  faces  looked  out  of  the  windows.  Hetty  had  awak* 
ened  the  whole  village  to  Christmas  Day. 


BACK  of  the  kitchen  proper  in  the  Lee  house  there  was 
another  shed-kitchen,  unplastered  and  unpainted,  that  was 
used  for  rough  work  like  soap-boiling  and  washing.  Each 
kitchen  had  its  own  door  opening  directly  into  the  green 
yard  on  the  north  side  of  the  house. 

Abel  Lee  sat  in  the  door  of  the  back  kitchen  cleaning 
dandelion  greens.  His  long  limbs  in  stiff  blue  cotton 
overalls  sprawled  down  over  the  low  wooden  step  into  the 
grass.  His  white  head  showed  out  against  the  dark  un 
painted  interior  at  his  back.  He  had  a  tin  pan  full  of 
dandelions  between  his  knees,  and  he  was  scraping  them 
assiduously  with  an  old  shoe-knife,  and  throwing  them  into 
another  pan  on  the  step  beside  him. 

That  morning  the  narrow  green  yard  that  stretched  along 
the  north  side  of  the  house  had  been  all  thickly  set  with 
yellow  dandelion  disks ;  now  there  were  very  few  left,  for 
Abel  had  dug  them  up  for  dinner. 

It  was  early  in  May,  and  the  air  was  full  of  sudden  sweet 
calls  of  birds  and  delicate  rustles  of  flowering  boughs.  In 
Ephraim  Cole's  next-door  yard,  on  the  other  side  of  the 
gray  picket-fence,  stood  three  blossoming  peach-trees.  They 
were  young  and  symmetrical  trees,  they  stood  in  a  line, 
and  were  in  full  pink  bloom.  Every  time  they  stirred  in 
the  wind  they  gave  out  a  stronger  almond  fragrance. 


Abel,  as  he  cleaned  his  dandelions,  breathed  it  in  with 
out  noticing.  He  had  been  out  there  all  the  morning,  and 
had  become  accustomed  to  it,  as  it  seems  one  would  to  the 
air  of  paradise.  Moreover,  he  had  seen  seventy-eight  sea 
sons  of  blooming  peach-trees,  and  a  spring  had  become 
like  an  old  and  familiar  picture  on  his  wall ;  it  had  no  new 
meaning  for  him.  And,  too,  he  was  harnessed,  as  it  were, 
with  his  head  down,  to  dandelions. 

Always  as  he  sat  there  he  could  hear  a  heavy  creaking 
step  in  the  forward  kitchen.  Back  and  forth  it  went,  and 
there  were  also  loud  rattling  and  clinking  noises  of  dishes 
and  iron  kettles. 

Suddenly,  as  he  worked  on  the  dandelions,  the  step  and 
the  noises  ceased,  and  a  voice  took  their  place.  It  was  a 
naturally  soft  and  weak  voice  that  had  been  strained  into 
hard  shrillness.  "You  mind  you  clean  them  dandelions 
thorough,  father." 

"  I'm  takin'  all  the  pains  I  can  with  'em,"  replied  the  old 
man.  He  examined  one  which  he  held  in  hand  at  the  mo 
ment  with  great  solicitude.  He  could  not  see  the  woman, 
but  her  eyes  were  upon  him  through  the  crack  in  the  blind. 
She  was  at  the  window  nearest  the  door. 

"Well,  you  mind  you  do,"  she  repeated.  "How  near 
done  air  they?" 

The  old  man  surveyed  the  pans  with  grave  considera 
tion.  "  'Bout  half,  I  guess." 

"Half)  Good  land!  An'  you've  been  quiddlin'  out 
there  all  the  mornin'." 

"  It's  consider'ble  work  to  dig  'em,  mother." 

"  Work— talk  about  work !  You  dun  know  what  work  is. 
If  you'd  made  the  pies  that  I  have  since  I  got  up  from  the 
breakfast-table  you  might  think  you'd  done  somethin'.  If 


them  greens  ain't  done  in  half  an  hour  I  can't  get  'em 
boiled  for  dinner." 

"  I  guess  I  can  git  'em  done  in  half  an  hour." 

"  Guess — there  ain't  no  guess  about  it !  You've  got  to 
if  I  git  'em  done  for  dinner,  an'  I've  got  to  have  somethin' 
to  eat  with  all  them  boarders.  I  want  you  to  git  them 
done,  an'  then  wash  up  the  breakfast  dishes.  I  ain't  had 
a  minute.  Now  don't,  for  the  land's  sake,  putter  so  long 
over  that  one ;  it's  clean  'nough." 

The  voice  ceased  and  the  step  began.  Abel  labored 
with  diligence  at  his  dandelion  greens.  After  a  while  an 
other  old  man  came  stiffly  sauntering  across  the  next-door 
yard,  and  took  up  a  stand  the  other  side  of  the  picket-fence. 
He  was  small,  with  sharp  features  and  a  high  forehead.  He 
had  very  white  hair  and  a  long  white  beard,  and  he  was 
smiling  to  himself.  He  stood  between  two  of  the  bloom 
ing  peach-trees,  and  looked  smilingly  at  Abel,  who  toiled 
over  his  greens,  and  did  not  appear  to  see  him. 

"  Well,  Abel,  how  air  ye  ?"  said  the  old  man  finally.  His 
smile  deepened,  his  old  blue  eyes  took  on  a  hard  twinkle, 
like  blue  beads,  and  stared  straight  into  Abel's  face. 

"  Well,  I'm  pooty  fair,  Ephraim.  How  air  you  ?"  Abel 
had  not  started  when  the  other  spoke ;  he  merely  glanced 
up  from  his  greens  with  a  friendly  air. 

"  Well,  I'm  'bout  as  usual,  Abel."  The  old  man  paused 
for  a  second.  When  he  spoke  again  it  was  more  cautiously. 
He  was  near  Abel,  and  also  very  near  the  kitchen  window 
whence  the  sound  of  footsteps  and  dishes  came.  "  Kitchen 
colonel  this  mornin',  Abel  ?"  he  queried,  in  a  soft  and  insin 
uating  voice.  His  venerable  white  beard  seemed  to  take 
quirks  and  curls  like  a  satyr's ;  he  gave  a  repressed  chuckle. 

"  I  dun'  know  what  you  call  it,"  replied  Abel,  with  a  pa- 


tient  gravity.  He  took  another  dandelion  out  of  the  pan 
and  examined  it  minutely. 

"  Goin'  to  the  meetin'  this  arternoon  ?" 

"  What  meetin'  ?" 

"  The  town  meetin  :  ain't  ye  heerd  of  it  ?" 

«  No,  I  ain't." 

"  It's  a  special  town  meetin'  'bout  the  water-works  they're 
talkin'  'bout  puttin'  in.  There's  notices  up  on  all  the  trees 
down  street.  I  should  ha'  thought  you'd  seen  'em,  if  you'd 
had  eyes." 

"  Well,  I  ain't  happened  to  somehow." 

Ephraim  cast  a  glance  at  the  kitchen  window,  and  again 
cautiously  lowered  his  voice.  "  Been  too  busy  in  the  kitch 
en,  ain't  ye  ?" 

"Well,  I  dun  know  'bout  that." 

"  I  s'pose  a  kitchen  colonel  wouldn't  git  shot  if  he  run 
for't ;  but  he  might  git  the  pots  an'  kittles  throwed  at  him." 
Ephraim  doubled  over  the  fence  with  merriment  at  his  own 

Abel's  face  was  imperturbable ;  he  kept  close  at  work 
on  the  greens. 

"Well,  I  s'pose  you'll  go  to  the  meetin',"  continued 

"  I  dun  know." 

"  I  should  think  you'd  want  to  go,  if  you  was  a  man,  an* 
have  a  leetle  voice  in  things.  Here  they  air  talkin'  'bout 
puttin'  in  them  water-works,  an'  raisin'  our  taxes  four  per 
cent,  to  pay  for't.  I've  got  a  good  well,  an'  so've  you,  an' 
we  don't  want  no  water-works." 

"There's  some  that  ain't  got  wells,"  observed  Abel, 

"Well,  that  ain't  anything  to  us,  is  it?    We've  got  'em. 


Anyway,  I  should  think  you'd  want  to  go  to  the  meetin', 
an'  see  what  was  bein'  done,  if  you  was  a  man." 

Abel  said  nothing.  He  began  to  gather  up  himself  and 
his  pans  stiffly.  The  dandelions  were  all  picked  over. 
Ephraim,  still  smiling,  leaned  on  the  fence  and  watched 

"  What  ye  goin'  to  do  now,  Abel  ?" 

Abel  did  not  seem  to  hear.  When  he  stood  up,  one 
could  see  how  tall  he  was,  although  there  was  a  stoop  in 
his  gaunt  square  shoulders.  His  spare  face  was  pale,  and 
his  sharp  handsome  features  had  a  severe  downward  cast, 
although  their  principal  effect  was  gentle  patience.  He 
looked  like  a  Roman  senator  turned  begging  friar  as  he 
stood  there  in  his  overalls  holding  his  dandelion  pans. 

"  Got  the  dishes  washed,  Abel  ?" 

"  No,  I  ain't  yet,"  replied  Abel,  with  a  mixture  of  em 
barrassment  and  dignity  in  his  tone.  He  turned  on  his 
heel,  but  Ephraim  would  not  let  him  go. 

" Stop  a  minute,"  said  he.     " Where's  Fanny?" 

"  She's  gone  to  school." 

"  Hm  !"  Ephraim,  as  he  sniffed,  cocked  his  head,  and 
rolled  his  eyes  towards  the  pink  top  of  a  peach-tree,  as  if 
in  a  spasm  of  contempt.  "  I  rayther  think  if  Fanny  Lee 
was  my  granddaughter  she'd  quit  school-teachin',  an'  stay 
to  home  an'  help  about  the  house-work,  an'  7V  quit  bein' 
kitchen  colonel ;  I  rayther  think  I  would." 

Ephraim  raised  his  voice  incautiously ;  a  woman's  head 
appeared  in  the  window. 

••  What's  that  ?"  she  inquired,  sharply. 

"  Oh,  nothin',"  replied  Ephraim.  "  I  was  jest  talkin'  to 
Abel,  Mis'  Lee."  Ephraim  straightened  himself  from  his 
lounge  over  the  fence,  and  turned  about  with  a  deprecatory 



swiftness ;  but  the  woman's  sharp  old  voice  followed  him 
up  like  a  long-lashed  whip. 

"Well,"  said  she,  "if  you  ain't  got  anything  better  to  do 
than  to  stan'  leanin'  on  the  fence  talkin'  nothin'  to  my  hus 
band  all  the  forenoon,  you  had  better  come  in  here  an' 
help  me.  I'll  give  you  somethin'  to  do."  Ephraim  said 
nothing ;  he  was  in  full  retreat,  and  had  passed  the  line  of 
peach-trees.  "  You'd  better  go  home  an'  help  Mis'  Coles 
carry  in  the  water  for  her  washin',"  the  woman's  voice  went 
on.  "  I  see  her  carryin'  in  a  pail  jest  now,  an'  she  was 
bent  over  'most  double."  Seeing  that  she  could  get  no 
response,  she  stood  looking  after  Ephraim  with  a  comical 
expression  that  savored  of  malice  and  amusement.  She 
turned  around  when  Abel  with  the  dandelions  shuffled  into 
the  room.  "  Now,  father,  what  air  you  bringin'  that  pan 
that  you've  put  the  scrapin's  of  the  greens  in  in  here  for  ? 
Don't  you  know  no  better  ?  I  should  think  you'd  knowed 
enough  to  took  'em  down  to  the  hens,  many  times  as  I've 
told  ye.  They're  shut  up  now,  an'  they  like  green  things." 

"  I'll  take  'em  down  now." 

"  Take  'em  down  now  !  It  does  seem  sometimes,  father, 
as  if  you  didn't  have  no  sense  at  all.  If  I  set  you  to  doin' 
a  piece  of  work,  you're  always  takin'  hold  on't  wrong  end 
first.  Take  them  greens  down  to  the  hens !  I  should 
think  you'd  know  better,  father." 

Mrs.  Lee  was  a  small  and  frail-looking  old  woman,  but 
she  seemed  always  to  have  through  her  a  strong  quiver  as 
of  electric  wires.  It  was  as  if  she  had  an  electric  battery 
at  the  centre  of  her  nervous  system.  Abel  stood  droop- 
ingly  before  her,  his  face  full  of  mild  dejection  and  bewil 

"  Ain't  I  told  you,  father,"  she  went  on,  "  that  them  dan- 


delion  greens  wouldn't  get  done  for  dinner  if  they  wa'n't 
on  ?  an'  ain't  they  got  to  be  washed  ?  You  know  you  ain't 
washed  'em,  an'  they  ain't  ready  to  put  in  the  kittle,  an' 
here  you  air  talkin'  'bout  goin'  to  the  hen-coop !  I  ruther 
guess  the  hens  can  wait." 

"  I  didn't  know  jest  what  you  meant,  mother." 

"You  don't  act  as  if  you  knew  what  anything  meant 
sometimes.  It  does  seem  to  me  as  if  you  might  have  a 
leetle  more  sconce,  father,  with  all  I've  got  to  do." 

Abel  set  the  pan  of  greens  in  the  sink,  and  pumped 
water  on  them  with  vigor. 

"  Mind  you  git  'em  clean,"  charged  his  wife.  She  was 
baking  pies,  and  she  moved  about  with  such  quickness  that 
her  motions  seemed  full  of  vibrations,  and  as  if  one  could 
hear  a  hum,  as  with  a  bird.  If  she  had  about  her  any  of 
the  rustiness  and  clumsiness  of  age,  she  propelled  herself 
with  such  energy  that  no  hitches  nor  squeaks  were  appar 
ent.  She  stepped  heavily  for  so  small  a  woman  ;  it  seemed 
impossible  that  her  bodily  weight  could  account  for  such 
heavy  footsteps,  and  as  if  her  character  must  add  its  own 
gravity  to  them.  Mrs.  Lee  was  but  two  years  younger  than 
her  husband ;  but  her  light  hair  had  not  turned  gray — it 
had  only  faded — and  she  did  not  wear  a  cap.  She  had 
been  a  very  pretty  woman,  and  there  was  still  a  suggestion 
of  the  prettiness  in  her  face.  She  had  withered  complete, 
as  some  flowers  do  on  their  stalks,  keeping  all  their  original 
shapes,  and  fading  into  themselves,  not  scattering  any  of 
their  graces  abroad. 

Everybody  called  Mrs.  Abel  Lee  a  very  smart  woman, 

and  a  very  wonderful  woman  for  one  of  her  age.    The  house 

in  which  she  lived  had  been  left  to  her  by  her  father.    Abel 

had  mortgaged  it  heavily,  and  she  had  taken  boarders  and 



nearly  cleared  it.  Abel  Lee  had  been  a  very  unfortunate 
and  unsuccessful  man  through  his  whole  life.  He  had 
worked  hard,  and  failed  in  everything  that  he  had  under 
taken.  Now  he  was  an  old  man  of  seventy- eight,  and  his 
wife  was  taking  boarders  to  support  the  family  and  clear 
the  mortgage,  and  he  was  helping  her  about  the  housework. 
It  seemed  to  be  all  that  he  could  do. 

The  Lees  had  had  one  son,  who  had  apparently  inherited 
his  father's  ill-fortune.  He  had  a  sad  life,  and  died  with 
out  a  dollar,  leaving  his  daughter  Fanny  to  the  care  of  his 
old  parents.  Fanny  was  about  eighteen  now,  and  she 
taught  school.  Her  school-house  was  a  mile  away,  and 
she  did  not  come  home  to  dinner.  However,  Mrs.  Lee's 
boarders  all  came,  punctually  at  twelve  o'clock.  The 
boarders  were  four  women,  not  very  young,  who  worked  in 
the  shoe  factory.  When  they  got  home,  dingy  and  dull- 
faced,  they  always  found  dinner  on  the  table — plenty  of 
good  food.  Mrs.  Lee  was  a  splendid  cook,  after  the  vil 
lage  model.  She  did  the  helping  with  alacrity,  and  Abel 
had  his  portion  after  the  boarders.  He  had  a  small  allow 
ance  of  greens  to-day ;  they  were  the  first  of  the  season, 
and  the  boarders  were  hungry  for  them.  The  four  women 
could  not  grasp  many  of  the  pleasures  of  life,  and  had  to 
make  the  most  of  those  that  hung  low  enough  for  them. 
They  took  a  deal  of  comfort  in  eating. 

After  dinner  Abel  hurried  to  clear  off  the  table  and  wash 
the  dishes.  He  was  usually  a  long  time  about  it,  for  he 
was  hopelessly  clumsy,  although  he  was  so  faithful  at  such 
work.  Abel  at  the  dish-tub  with  one  of  his  wife's  aprons 
pinned  around  his  waist  was  a  piteous  object.  He  bent  to 
the  task  with  a  hopeless  and  dejected  air,  and  mopped  the 
plates  with  melancholy  fussiness.  But  to-day  he  rattled 


the  dishes  quite  like  a  woman.  "Don't  you  rattle  4hem 
plates  round  so ;  you'll  nick  'em,"  his  wife  remarked  once, 
and  Abel  obediently  tempered  his  movements.  Still,  the 
dinner  dishes  were  washed  much  sooner  than  usual.  After 
they  were  set  away,  Abel  took  up  a  stand  at  the  pantry 
door ;  he  leaned  against  it,  and  regarded  his  wife  with  a 
hesitating  air.  Once  in  a  while  he  opened  his  mouth  as  if 
to  speak,  then  seemed  to  change  his  mind.  Finally  Mrs. 
Lee  turned  sharply  on  him.  "  Why  don't  you  git  the  broom 
an'  sweep  up  the  kitchen,  father,"  said  she.  "What  air 
you  standin'  there  for?" 

Abel  did  not  answer  for  a  moment;  he  looked  across 
the  room  at  the  broom  on  its  nail,  then  at  his  wife — "  I 
kinder  thought — mebbe — I'd  go  to — that  town  meetin'  this 

His  wife  faced  about  on  him  with  a  spoon  in  her  hand. 
"What  town  meetin'?" 

"The  one  they've  'p'inted  about  the  water-works.  I 
thought  mebbe  I'd  better  go  an'  kinder  look  into  it  a  leetle." 

"  Look  into  it — a  great  difference  it  '11  make  your  lookin' 
into  it !  I  should  think  you'd  got  about  all  the  town  meet- 
in'  you  could  attend  to  to  home,  without  goin'  traipsin'  off 
there.  Here's  the  churnin'  to  be  done,  an'  I  ain't  got  no 
time  nor  strength  for't.  I  shouldn't  think  you'd  talk  'bout 
town  meetin's,  father." 

"  Well,  I  dun'  know  as  I'd  better  go,"  said  Abel,  and 
went  across  for  the  broom.  However,  he  swept  with  more 
despatch  than  usual,  and  when  he  sat  down  to  the  churn  it 
was  with  a  forlorn  hope  that  the  butter  might  come  in  sea 
son  for  him  to  go  to  the  town  meeting.  But  the  butter  did 
not  come  until  the  meeting  had  been  long  dispersed,  and 
not  until  Fanny  came  home  from  school.  Abel  was  just 


lifting  out  the  dasher  when  she  appeared  in  the  kitchen 
door  with  her  dinner  basket  on  her  arm.  "  Well,  grandpa, 
has  the  butter  come  ?"  said  she. 

"  I  guess  you've  brought  it ;  it's  been  all  the  afternoon 
gittin'  here."  Abel  surveyed  her  with  adoration.  Fanny 
was  a  pretty  young  girl.  She  looked  at  her  grandparents 
and  smiled  radiantly,  but  evidently  the  smiles  were  about 
something  that  they  did  not  understand. 

"What  air  you  lookin'  so  awful  tickled  about?"  asked 
Mrs.  Lee. 

"  Oh,  nothing.  Did  you  have  any  pudding  left  from  din 
ner?  I'm  most  starved." 

"There's  a  saucer  under  the  yellow  bowl  on  the  pantry 

Fanny  was  still  smiling  when  she  sat  down  at  the  kitchen 
table  with  the  pudding.  "What  does  ail  you?"  Mrs.  Lee 
asked  again.  She  was  at  the  other  end  of  the  table  rolling 
out  biscuits  for  tea. 

"Oh,  nothing,  grandma.  What  makes  you  think  there's 
anything?"  Fanny  ate  her  pudding  with  apparent  uncon 
cern,  but  all  the  time  her  eyes  danced,  and  the  corners  of 
her  mouth  curved  upward.  "  I  didn't  have  to  walk  home 
to-night,"  she  remarked,  finally. 

"  Didn't  have  to  walk  home  ?    Why  not  ?" 

"Well,  Charley  Page  came  along  just  about  the  time 
school  was  out,  and — he  brought  me  home  in  his  buggy." 

"  Well,  I  never !"  Mrs.  Lee's  sharp  old  face  softened ; 
she  surveyed  her  granddaughter  with  admiring  smiles. 
"  That's  the  second  time  within  a  week,  ain't  it." 

Fanny  nodded,  and  bent  lower  over  the  pudding.  She 
was  blushing  pink,  and  she  could  not  keep  the  smiles  back. 
Abel,  who  was  starting  the  fire,  stood  stock-still,  and  stared 


with  delighted  wonder  at  her  and  his  wife.  "That  young 
Page  is  one  of  the  smartest  fellars  in  town,"  he  volun 
teered;  "an'  his  father's  wuth  a  good  deal  of  property." 

Abel  was  so  pleased  that  he  paid  little  attention  when, 
on  carrying  his  basket  around  to  the  shed  door  for  more 
light  wood,  Ephraim  again  hailed  him  from  the  fence. 
"  Hullo,  Abel !"  he  called ;  "  I  didn't  see  you  to  the  town 

"  No ;  I  wa'n't  there." 

"  Kitchen  colonel  again  ?" 

Abel  picked  up  wood  vigorously.  Ephraim  surveyed  him 
with  a  dissatisfied  expression.  "  Who  was  that  I  see  your 
Fanny  a-ridin'  home  with  ?"  he  asked. 

Abel  straightened  himself,  and  looked  over  at  Ephraim. 
"  That  was  the  young  Page  fellar,"  he  said,  proudly. 

"John  Page's  son?" 


"  H'm  !" 

In  a  moment  Ephraim  turned  about  and  walked  off.  He 
had  a  daughter  of  his  own  who  was  about  Fanny's  age,  and 
she  was  very  plain-looking  and  unattractive,  and  was  not 
liked  by  the  young  men. 

Fanny  was  much  sought  for,  she  was  so  pretty,  and  she 
had  such  pleasant  ways.  She  dressed  nicely  too ;  her 
grandmother  encouraged  her  to  spend  her  school  money 
for  clothes.  Her  grandparents  had  always  petted  her, 
and  exacted  very  little  from  her.  She  did  not  help  much 
about  the  house.  To-night,  after  tea,  she  stood  looking 
irresolutely  at  her  pretty  gray  dress  and  her  grandparents. 
"  Don't  you  want  me  to  take  off  my  dress  and  help  about 
the  dishes  ?"  said  she, 

"  Land,  no  1"  answered  her  grandmother,     "  Go  'long ;  it 


ain't  wuth  while  to  change  your  dress  for  this  little  passel 
of  dishes.  Father's  goin'  to  wash  'em  while  I'm  mixin'  up 
the  bread." 

"  Yes,  you  go  right  along  an'  set  down  in  the  parlor  an' 
git  rested,  Fanny,"  chimed  in  Abel.  "  I  ain't  got  a  thing 
to  do  but  the  dishes,  an'  they  ain't  wuth  talkin'  about." 
Abel  shuffled  cheerfully  around,  gathering  up  the  dishes 
from  the  tea-table. 

Fanny  went  into  the  parlor  as  she  was  bidden ;  she  had 
about  her  a  sweet  docility,  and  she  would  have  changed  her 
dress  and  washed  the  dishes  just  as  readily.  Fanny  would 
always  perform  all  the  duties  that  she  was  told  to,  but  prob 
ably  not  so  very  many  others.  She  had  little  original  di 
rective  power  in  the  matter  of  duties,  although  she  had  a 
perfect  willingness  and  sweetness  in  their  execution. 

She  sat  down  at  a  parlor  window  with  some  fancy-work, 
and  rocked  to  and  fro  comfortably.  She  could  look  out  on 
the  front  yard  full  of  green  grass,  with  a  blossoming  cherry- 
tree,  and  a  yellow-flowering  bush  down  near  the  gate.  The 
four  women  boarders  were  in  the  sitting-room,  but  she  did 
not  think  of  joining  them,  nor  they  her.  Fanny's  grand 
mother  always  insinuated  her  into  the  parlor  when  the 
boarders  were  in  the  sitting-room.  In  her  heart  she  did 
not  consider  that  these  four  dingy-handed  shop-girls  were 
fit  associates  for  her  granddaughter. 

Fanny  herself  had  no  such  feeling  in  the  matter ;  she 
would  have  gone  into  the  sitting-room  and  fraternized  with 
the  boarders,  had  her  grandmother  wished  her  to  do  so. 
But  they  rather  repulsed  her,  and  held  themselves  aloof 
with  an  awkward  dignity,  and  Fanny  was  timid  and  easily 
rebuffed.  They  were  quite  acute  enough  to  understand 
that  Mrs.  Lee  did  not  consider  them  proper  company  for  her 


granddaughter,  and  they  felt  injured  and  covertly  resentful. 
They  were  also  righteously  indignant  because  Fanny  was 
so  petted  by  her  grandparents,  and  did  not  help  them  more. 
To-night  the  four  women  in  the  sitting-room  whispered  to 
gether  about  Fanny  j  how  she  was  sitting  all  dressed  up  in 
the  parlor  while  her  poor  old  grandparents  were  working  in 
the  kitchen.  They  thought  that  she  ought  to  give  up  her 
school  and  stay  at  home  and  help.  She  was  not  earning 
much  anyway,  and  it  all  went  on  to  her  back ;  she  need  not 
dress  so  fine. 

While  they  whispered,  Fanny,  small  and  dainty,  putting 
pretty  stitches  in  her  fancy-work,  sat  at  the  parlor  window. 
When  it  was  too  dark  for  her  to  sew,  she  leaned  her  head 
against  the  window-casing  and  looked  out.  The  yellow 
bush  in  the  yard  still  showed  out  brightly  in  the  dusk ;  the 
cherry-tree  looked  like  a  mist.  Over  in  the  east,  beyond 
everything  else,  was  a  soft  rise  of  shadow ;  that  was  Eagle 

It  grew  darker.  After  a  while  her  grandmother  came 
into  the  room,  feeling  her  way.  "  Don't  you  want  me  to 
light  a  lamp,  grandma?"  asked  Fanny,  in  a  soft,  absent 

"  No  ;  I  don't  want  none.  I'd  jest  as  soon  set  down  in 
the  dark  a  few  minutes  ;  then  I'm  goin'  to  bed.  Father's 
gone."  The  old  woman  fumbled  into  a  chair  at  the  other 
window.  "  Have  you  seen  anything  about  your  hat  yet  ?" 
she  asked  Fanny,  after  they  both  had  sat  still  a  little 

"  Yes ;  I  went  into  Miss  Loring's  on  my  way  to  school 
this  morning." 

"  What  you  goin'  to  have  ?" 

"  That  brown  straw  I've  been  talking  about.     I'm  going 


to  have  it  trimmed  with  some  brown  velvet  and  yellow 

"  It  '11  be  real  handsome.     When  you  goin'  to  have  it?" 

"Next  week — Friday.  I've  got  to  have  it  then,  for  I 
haven't  a  thing  to  wear  if  we  go  up  the  mountain  Saturday." 

The  old  woman's  face  was  invisible  in  the  dusk,  but  her 
voice  took  on  a  pleased  and  significant  tone,  and  she  laughed 
softly.  "  I  s'pose  that  Page  fellar  will  be  goin',  won't  he  ?" 

"  I  don't  know.  He  was  invited."  Fanny  also  laughed 
with  pleased  confusion.  She  had  been  climbing  the  moun 
tain  with  young  Page  for  the  last  hour  in  a  dream,  and  she 
had  worn  the  brown  straw  hat  with  the  brown  velvet  and 
yellow  daisies. 

"Well,  I  guess  he'll  go,  fast  enough.  I  see  his  "father 
down  to  the  store  the  other  day,  an'  he  stopped  an'  shook 
hands  an'  asked  how  I  was,  and  looked  dreadful  smilin'  an' 
knowin'.  I  guess  he's  heerd  how  his  son's  been  carryin' 
you  home  from  school.  Well,  I  guess  he's  a  good,  likely 
young  fellar,  an'  that's  wuth  more'n  his  father's  money." 
The  old  woman  spoke  the  last  words  of  her  remark  in  a 
lagging  and  drowsy  voice.  The  two  were  silent  again. 
Presently  there  came  a  long  heavy  breath  from  the  grand 
mother's  corner. 

"  Grandma !"  called  Fanny. 

"  What  ?"  the  old  woman  responded,  faintly. 

"  Wake  up ;  you're  goin'  to  sleep." 

"  Well,  I  dun  know  but  I  be.  I  guess  I'd  better  rouse 
up  an'  go  to  bed.  I  wouldn't  set  up  much  longer  if  I  was 
you,  Fanny." 

"  I  ain't  going  to."  But  Fanny  sat  there  and  dreamed 
quite  a  while  after  her  grandmother  had  fumbled  out  of  the 


That  was  on  Thursday.  It  was  the  next  day  but  one, 
Saturday,  when  old  Ephraim  Coles  came  to  the  fence  and 
hailed  Abel  as  he  was  paring  potatoes  at  the  kitchen  door. 
"  Hullo,  Abel !  how  air  ye  ?" 

"  'Bout  as  usual,"  answered  Abel. 

"  Kitchen  colonel  this  mornin'  ?" 

"  I  dun  know  what  you  call  it."  Abel  was  cutting  the 
specks  from  the  potatoes  with  clumsy  pains.  He  sat  on  the 
door-step  with  the  pan  between  his  knees.  Ephraim  stood 
watching  him.  He  had  an  important  look,  and  his  smile 
was  different  from  his  usual  one. 

Presently  he  leaned  over  the  fence.  "  Abel !"  said  he,  in 
a  confidential  whisper. 

"  What  ?" 

"  Come  here  a  minute.     Want  to  tell  ye  somethinV 

Abel  hesitated  j  he  peered  uneasily  around  at  the  kitchen 
window.  Then  he  set  down  the  potatoes,  arose,  and  slowly 
shuffled  over  to  the  fence.  Ephraim  reached  over  and  caught 
him  by  the  sleeve  when  he  came  near  enough.  "You  know 
Maria  an'  me  own  two  share  in  the  railroad,  don't  ye  ?"  he 
whispered.  Abel  nodded.  "Well,"  continued  Ephraim, 
"  next  Saturday  there's  a  stockholder  meetin'  to  Boston,  an' 
Maria  she  don't  care  nothin'  'bout  goin',  'cause  she's  goin' 
to  have  company,  an'  Abby  she  don't  want  to,  an'  so  if  you 
want  to  go  on  Maria's  stock  you  can" 

Abel  stared  at  him  in  gentle  bewilderment.  "  Go  to  Bos 
ton  ?" 

"Of course — go  to  Boston  for  nothin';  'twon't  cost  ye  a 
cent.  An'  I'll  stanr  the  dinner.  We'll  go  in  somewhere  an' 
git  somethin'  to  eat.  An'  we'll  go  round  an'  see  the  sights. 
What  d'ye  say  to't?" 

Ephraim  looked  at  Abel  with  the  air  of  an  emperor  ten- 


dering  a  royal  bounty.  He  drew  himself  up,  put  his  hands 
in  his  pockets,  and  smiled. 

Abel  looked  pleased  and  eager.  "  Thank  ye,"  said  he— 
"  thank  ye,  Ephraim.  I'd  like  to  go  fust-rate  if—there  ain't 
nothin'  to  hender." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what  there  is  to  hender !  I  guess  you 
can  quit  bein'  kitchen  colonel  for  one  day.  The  meetin' 
comes  a  week  from  to-day,  an'  that's  Saturday,  an'  Fanny 
she'll  be  home  to  help  Mis'  Lee." 

"  Yes,  she  will,"  assented  Abel,  thoughtfully.  "  Well,  I 
must  go  an'  finish  them  pertaters  now,  an'  I'll  see  what 
mother  says  to  it,  an'  let  yer  know." 

Abel  pared  the  potatoes  with  greater  pains  than  ever ;  he 
washed  them  faithfully,  and  carried  them  into  the  kitchen, 
and  tremblingly  broached  the  subject  of  the  Boston  trip  to 
his  wife.  To  his  great  delight  it  was  favorably  received. 
Mrs.  Lee  said  she  did  not  see  any  reason  why  he  could 
not  go.  She  had  entirely  forgotten  about  Fanny's  moun 
tain  party. 

All  the  next  week  old  Abel  was  in  a  tremor  of  delight. 
He  had  long  conferences  with  Ephraim  over  the  fence ;  de 
lightful  additions  to  the  regular  programme  were  planned ; 
every  day  some  new  scheme  was  talked  over.  Abel  had 
not  had  an  outing  for  many  years  ;  he  was  like  a  child  over 
this  one.  Still  he  did  not  neglect  his  household  tasks ;  he 
worked  with  anxious  zeal,  he  was  so  afraid  that  his  wife 
might  see  so  much  to  be  done  that  she  would  veto  the  plan 
at  the  last  moment.  He  was  so  anxious  and  nervous  over 
it  that  he  did  not  say  much  about  it  at  home,  for  fear  of 
having  some  damper  cast  upon  him.  Abel  had  not  much 
shrewdness,  but  he  had  learned  that  a  casual  acceptance  of 
a  situation  was  much  more  likely  than  an  eager  one  to  make 


it  lasting  when  his  wife  was  concerned.  Friday  night  at 
sunset  both  of  the  old  men  stood  out  in  the  yard  with  up 
lifted  faces  and  scrutinized  the  heavens. 

"  It  ain't  goin'  to  be  foul  weather  to-morrow,"  said  Ephra- 
im,  judicially ;  "not  if  I  know  anything  about  signs." 

"  Ain't  you  afraid  the  wind  ain't  in  jest  the  right  quarter  ?" 
Abel  asked,  anxiously. 

"  H'm  !  I  don't  care  nothin'  about  the  wind.  Every 
thing  p'ints  square  to  fair  weather,  'cordin'  to  my  reck'- 

Ephraim  was  right.  The  next  day  was  beautiful.  Abel 
looked  out  of  the  window  in  the  morning,  and  his  face  was 
like  a  boy's.  Directly  after  breakfast  he  shaved  himself  at 
the  kitchen  glass  and  blacked  his  boots.  Then  he  went 
into  his  bedroom  to  put  on  his  Sunday  clothes. 

He  was  nearly  ready — clean  collar  and  best  stock  and 
all — when  he  heard  Fanny's  voice  and  Ephraim's  daughter 
Abby's  out  in  the  yard.  He  did  not  pay  much  attention  at 
first ;  then  he  stood  still  and  listened  with  a  lengthening 
face.  "  No,  I  can't  go  any  way  in  the  world,"  Fanny  was 
saying.  Her  voice  was  perfectly  sweet  and  uncomplaining, 
but  there  was  a  sad  inflection  in  it.  "  Grandma  forgot  all 
about  it,  and  she  says  poor  grandpa  has  been  counting  on 
going  to  Boston  with  your  father  for  a  whole  week,  and  it 
would  be  real  cruel  to  keep  him  at  home ;  and  it's  baking- 
day,  and  she's  got  the  sitting-room  carpet  to  put  down,  and 
she  can't  get  along  alone.  Of  course  I'm  kind  of  sorry 
about  it.  I'd  been  counting  on  going  ;  but  I  wouldn't  keep 
grandpa  at  home  for  anything,  and  there  isn't  anything  else 
for  me  to  do  but  to  stay  myself." 

"Well,  I  hope  that  pretty  Rogers  girl  that's  visiting  up 
to  Rhoda  Emerson's  won't  cut  you  out  with  Charley  Page, 


I  saw  him  talking  to  her  in  the  post-office  last  night,"  Abby 
said.  Her  voice  was  like  her  father's. 

Abel  unwound  his  stock,  and  painfully  unbuttoned  his 
stiff  collar.  Presently  he  appeared  in  the  kitchen,  and  he 
had  on  his  old  clothes.  His  wife  faced  around  on  him. 
"  For  mercy's  sakes,  father,  ain't  you  changed  your  clothes 
yet  ?" 

"  I  ain't  goin',  after  all,  I  guess." 

"  Ain't  goin' !  why  not  ?" 

Fanny  was  standing  at  the  sink  washing  dishes,  and  she 
stopped  and  stared. 

"  Well,"  said  Abel,  "  I've  been  thinkin'  on't  over,  an'  I've 
made  up  my  mind  I'd  better  not  go,  on  several  'counts." 

"  I'd  like  to  know  what" 

"  Well,  one  thing  is,  it's  kinder  cheatin'.  I've  got  to  go 
as  Maria  Coles,  an'  I  ain't  Maria  Coles.  That's  what  it 
says  in  the  stiffikit.  I've  got  to  show  the  conductor  '  Maria 
Coles.'  An'  it  ain't  jest  square,  'cordin'  to  my  notions.  I 
ain't  thought  'twas  all  the  time." 

"  Well,  I  think  you  air  dreadful  silly,  father." 

"Well,  I  don't  think  'twould  amount  to  much  goin'  any 
how,  to  tell  the  truth." 

"I  would  go,  grandpa,"  said  Fanny. 

But  Abel  stood  fast  in  his  position.  His  wife,  and  Fanny, 
who  was  anxious  to  acquit  herself  honorably  in  the  matter, 
pleaded  with  him  to  no  purpose.  He  was  proof  against 
even  Ephraim's  reproaches  and  sarcasms.  "  Well,  stay  to 
home,  an'  be  a  kitchen  colonel  all  your  life,  if  you  want  to," 
shouted  Ephraim,  as  he  strode  out  of  the  yard ;  "  it's  all 
you're  fit  for,  'cordin'  to  my  way  of  thinkin'." 

Abel  went  into  the  house  and  pushed  Fanny  away  from 
the  sink,  "  If  there's  anything  else  you  want  to  do,  Fanny," 


said  he,  "  you'd  'better  go  an*  do  it.  I  ain't  got  another 
thing  to  set  my  hand  to  now." 

Fanny  looked  at  her  grandmother. 

"  If  he  tf/«Vgoin',  you  might  jest  as  well  go  an'  get  ready," 
said  Mrs.  Lee. 

In  a  few  minutes  Abel  heard  Fanny's  voice  calling  over 
to  Abby :  "  Abby,  Abby,  wait  for  me !  I'm  goin',  after  all. 
It  won't  take  me  but  a  minute  to  get  ready."  And  Fanny's 
voice  sounded  sweeter  than  a  bird's  to  her  grandfather  at 
the  kitchen  sink. 

Abel  had  a  hard  day  of  it.  Putting  down  the  sitting- 
room  carpet  was  painful  work  for  his  old  joints,  and  then 
there  was  churning  to  be  done.  When  Fanny  came  home 
he  sat  in  the  old  rocking-chair  in  the  kitchen,  with  his  head 
back,  fast  asleep.  Presently  his  wife  came  out  and  aroused 
him.  "  Wake  up,  father,"  said  she ;  "  I  want  to  tell  you 
somethin'."  Abel  looked  heavily  up  at  her.  "  I — ruther 
guess  Fanny  an'  that  Page  fellar  have  settled  it  betwixt 
'em,"  whispered  Mrs.  Lee. 

Abel's  head  was  up  in  a  minute,  and  he  was  looking  at 
her,  all  alert.  "  You  don't  say  so,  mother  !"  Suddenly  the 
old  man  put  his  hand  up  to  his  eyes  and  sobbed. 

"  Why,  how  silly  you  are,  father  !"  said  his  wife.  Then 
she  went  over  to  a  window  with  a  brisk  step  and  stood 
there  as  if  looking  out.  When  she  turned  around  her  eyes 
were  red.  "  I  think  you'd  better  go  to  bed,  father,  an'  not 
set  there  dozin'  in  that  chair  any  longer,"  said  she,  sharply ; 
"you're  all  tuckered  out." 

The  next  day,  when  Abel  had  to  stand  a  running  fire 
relative  to  the  Boston  trip  from  Ephraim,  he  gave  one  coun 
ter-shot — the  announcement  of  Fanny's  engagement.  He 
listened  while  Ephraim  related  the  pleasures  of  his  excursion 


and  berated  him  ;  then  he  turned  on  him  with  an  artful 
ness  born  of  patience.  "  S'pose  you've  heard  the  news  ?" 
said  he. 

"What  news?" 

"Well,  I  s'pose  our  Fanny  an'  John  Page's  son  have 
'bout  concluded  to  make  a  match  on't." 

"  H'm  !"  Ephraim  stood  looking  at  him.  "  When  they 
goin'  to  git  married?" 

"  Well,  I  dun  know.  Mother  was  saying  she  thought 
mebbe  some  time  in  the  fall." 

"  H'm  !  Well,  there's  slips.  Mebbe  she  won't  git  him, 
arter  all.  It's  best  not  to  be  too  sure  'bout  it." 

But  Ephraim  turned  on  his  heel  and  went  home  across 
the  yard,  and  left  Abel  to  his  Sunday  peace. 

Abel  had  to  work  harder  than  usual  that  summer.  It 
was  Fanny's  vacation  time,  and  she  had  been  accustomed 
to  assist  some  about  the  house-work,  so  Abel's  labors  had 
been  lightened  a  little  during  hot  weather.  But  this  sum 
mer  Fanny  was  sewing,  getting  ready  to  be  married  in  the 
fall,  and  she  could  not  do  much  else,  so  her  grandfather 
got  no  respite  in  his  kitchen  work  through  the  long  hot  days. 
He  grew  thinner  and  older,  but  he  never  complained  even  to 
himself.  He  was  radiant  over  Fanny.  She  was  going  to 
make  a  match  that  would  lift  her  out  of  all  his  own  struggles 
and  hardships.  Poor  old  Abel,  in  the  midst  of  his  hard, 
pitiful  little  whirlpool,  watched  Fanny  joyously  making  her 
way  out  of  it,  and  no  longer  thought  of  himself. 

Fanny  was  married  in  October.  There  was  quite  a  large 
evening  wedding,  and  Mrs.  Lee  had  wedding-cake  and 
pound-cake  and  tea  and  coffee  passed  around  for  refresh 
ments.  Fanny  and  her  bridegroom  were  standing  before 
the  minister,  who  had  already  begun  the  ceremony.  Fanny, 


all  in  white,  bent  her  head  delicately  under  her  veil ;  her 
cheeks  showed  through  it  like  roses.  The  bridegroom  kept 
his  handsome  boyish  face  upon  the  minister  with  a  brave 
and  resolute  air.  Abel  and  his  wife  stood  near  with  solemn 
and  tearful  faces.  The  four  boarders  stood  together  in  a 
corner.  The  rooms  were  crowded  with  people  in  creaking 
silks  and  Sunday  coats,  and  the  air  was  heavy  with  cake 
and  coffee  and  flowers. 

Suddenly,  in  the  midst  of  the  ceremony,  Mrs.  Lee  nudged 
Abel.  "  The  milk  is  burnin',  father,"  she  whispered  ;  "  go 
out  quick  an1  lift  it  off." 

Abel  looked  at  her.  "  Be  quick,"  she  whispered  again  ; 
"  the  milk  for  the  coffee  is  burnin'.  Don't  stan'  there  look- 
in',  for  mercy's  sake !" 

Abel  tiptoed  out  solemnly,  with  his  best  boots  creaking. 

When  he  returned,  Fanny  was  married,  and  the  people 
were  crowding  around  her.  He  felt  a  heavy  poke  in  his 
side,  and  there  was  Ephraim.  "  Had  to  go  out  an'  be 
kitchen  colonel,  didn't  ye,  Abel  ?"  said  he,  quite  loud. 

The  bridal  couple  drove  away,  and  the  guests  dispersed 
gradually.  Mrs.  Lee  had  to  stay  in  the  parlor  until  the  last 
of  them  disappeared ;  but  as  soon  as  Fanny  and  her  hus 
band  had  gone,  Abel  changed  his  clothes  and  went  into  the 
kitchen.  Things  needed  to  be  set  to  rights  a  little  before 

The  happy  bridal  pair  rode  away  through  the  October 
night,  the  wedding  guests  chattered  merrily  in  the  parlor 
and  flocked  gayly  down  the  street,  and  the  kitchen  colonel 
fought  faithfully  in  his  humble  field,  where  maybe  he  would 
some  day  win  a  homely  glory  all  his  own. 


"  FATHER  !" 

"  What  is  it  ?" 

"  What  are  them  men  diggirT  over  there  in  the  field  for  ?r 

There  was  a  sudden  dropping  and  enlarging  of  the  lower 
part  of  the  old  man's  face,  as  if  some  heavy  weight  had  set 
tled  therein  ;  he  shut  his  mouth  tight,  and  went  on  harness 
ing  the  great  bay  mare.  He  hustled  the  collar  on  to  her 
neck  with  a  jerk. 

"  Father !" 

The  old  man  slapped  the  saddle  upon  the  mare's  back. 

"  Look  here,  father,  I  want  to  know  what  them  men  are 
diggin'  over  in  the  field  for,  an'  I'm  goin'  to  know." 

"  I  wish  you'd  go  into  the  house,  mother,  an'  'tend  to  your 
own  affairs,"  the  old  man  said  then.  He  ran  his  words 
together,  and  his  speech  was  almost  as  inarticulate  as  a 

But  the  woman  understood ;  it  was  her  most  native  tongue. 
"  I  ain't  goin'  into  the  house  till  you  tell  me  what  them  men 
are  doin'  over  there  in  the  field,"  said  she. 

Then  she  stood  waiting.  She  was  a  small  woman,  short 
and  straight-waisted  like  a  child  in  her  brown  cotton  gown. 
Her  forehead  was  mild  and  benevolent  between  the  smooth 
curves  of  gray  hair ;  there  were  meek  downward  lines  about 


her  nose  and  mouth;  but  her  eyes,  fixed  upon  the  old  man, 
looked  as  if  the  meekness  had  been  the  result  of  her  own 
will,  never  of  the  will  of  another. 

They  were  in  the  barn,  standing  before  the  wide  open 
doors.  The  spring  air,  full  of  the  smell  of  growing  grass 
and  unseen  blossoms,  came  in  their  faces.  The  deep  yard 
in  front  was  littered  with  farm  wagons  and  piles  of  wood ; 
on  the  edges,  close  to  the  fence  and  the  house,  the  grass 
was  a  vivid  green,  and  there  were  some  dandelions. 

The  old  man  glanced  doggedly  at  his  wife  as  he  tightened 
the  last  buckles  on  the  harness.  She  looked  as  immovable 
to  him  as  one  of  the  rocks  in  his  pasture-land,  bound  to  the 
earth  with  generations  of  blackberry  vines.  He  slapped  the 
reins  over  the  horse,  and  started  forth  from  the  barn. 

"Father!"  said  she. 

The  old  man  pulled  up.     "  What  is  it  ?" 

"  I  want  to  know  what  them  men  are  diggin'  over  there  in 
that  field  for." 

"They're  diggin'  a  cellar,  I  s'pose,  if  you've  got  to 

"A  cellar  for  what?" 

"A  barn." 

"  A  barn  ?  You  ain't  goin'  to  build  a  barn  over  there 
where  we  was  goin'  to  have  a  house,  father  ?" 

The  old  man  said  not  another  word.  He  hurried  the 
horse  into  the  farm  wagon,  and  clattered  out  of  the  yard, 
jouncing  as  sturdily  on  his  seat  as  a  boy. 

The  woman  stood  a  moment  looking  after  him,  then  she 
went  out  of  the  barn  across  a  corner  of  the  yard  to  the 
house.  The  house,  standing  at  right  angles  with  the  great 
barn  and  a  long  reach  of  sheds  and  out-buildings,  was  in 
finitesimal  compared  with  them.  It  was  scarcely  as  com- 



modious  for  people  as  the  little  boxes  under  the  barn  eaves 
were  for  doves. 

A  pretty  girl's  face,  pink  and  delicate  as  a  flower,  was 
looking  out  of  one  of  the  house  windows.  She  was  watch 
ing  three  men  who  were  digging  over  in  the  field  which 
bounded  the  yard  near  the  road  line.  She  turned  quietly 
when  the  woman  entered. 

"  What  are  they  digging  for,  mother  ?"  said  she.  "  Did  he 
tell  you  ?" 

"  They're  diggin*  for — a  cellar  for  a  new  barn." 

"  Oh,  mother,  he  ain't  going  to  build  another  barn  ?" 

"  That's  what  he  says." 

A  boy  stood  before  the  kitchen  glass  combing  his  hair. 
He  combed  slowly  and  painstakingly,  arranging  his  brown 
hair  in  a  smooth  hillock  over  his  forehead.  He  did  not 
seem  to  pay  any  attention  to  the  conversation. 

"  Sammy,  did  you  know  father  was  going  to  build  a  new 
barn  ?"  asked  the  girl. 

The  boy  combed  assiduously. 

"  Sammy  !" 

He  turned,  and  showed  a  face  like  his  father's  under  his 
smooth  crest  of  hair.  "Yes,  I  s'pose  I  did,"  he  said,  re 

"  How  long  have  you  known  it  ?"  asked  his  mother. 

"  'Bout  three  months,  I  guess." 

"  Why  didn't  you  tell  of  it  ?" 

"  Didn't  think  'twould  do  no  good." 

"  I  don't  see  what  father  wants  another  barn  for,"  said 
the  girl,  in  her  sweet,  slow  voice.  She  turned  again  to  the 
window,  and  stared  out  at  the  digging  men  in  the  field.  Her 
tender,  sweet  face  was  full  of  a  gentle  distress.  Her  fore 
head  was  as  bald  and  innocent  as  a  baby's,  with  the  light 


hair  strained  back  from  it  in  a  row  of  curl-papers.  She  was 
quite  large,  but  her  soft  curves  did  not  look  as  if  they  cov 
ered  muscles. 

Her  mother  looked  sternly  at  the  boy.  "  Is  he  goin'  to 
buy  more  cows  ?"  said  she. 

The  boy  did  not  reply ;  he  was  tying  his  shoes. 

"  Sammy,  I  want  you  to  tell  me  if  he's  goin'  to  buy  more 

"  I  s'pose  he  is." 

"How  many?" 

"  Four,  I  guess." 

His  mother  said  nothing  more.  She  went  into  the  pan 
try,  and  there  was  a  clatter  of  dishes.  The  boy  got  his  cap 
from  a  nail  behind  the  door,  took  an  old  arithmetic  from 
the  shelf,  and  started  for  school.  He  was  lightly  built,  but 
clumsy.  He  went  out  of  the  yard  with  a  curious  spring  in 
the  hips,  that  made  his  loose  home-made  jacket  tilt  up  in 
the  rear. 

The  girl  went  to  the  sink,  and  began  to  wash  the  dishes 
that  were  piled  up  there.  Her  mother  came  promptly  out 
of  the  pantry,  and  shoved  her  aside.  "  You  wipe  'em,"  said 
she  ;  "  I'll  wash.  There's  a  good  many  this  mornin'." 

The  mother  plunged  her  hands  vigorously  into  the  water, 
the  girl  wiped  the  plates  slowly  and  dreamily.  "  Mother," 
said  she,  "  don't  you  think  it's  too  bad  father's  going  to  build 
that  new  barn,  much  as  we  need  a  decent  house  to  live  in  ?" 

Her  mother  scrubbed  a  dish  fiercely.  "  You  ain't  found 
out  yet  we're  women-folks,  Nanny  Penn,"  said  she.  "You 
ain't  seen  enough  of  men-folks  yet  to.  One  of  these  days 
you'll  find  it  out,  an'  then  you'll  know  that  we  know  only 
what  men-folks  think  we  do,  so  far  as  any  use  of  it  goes,  an' 
how  we'd  ought  to  reckon  men-folks  in  with  Providence,  an' 

45  2  THE  RE  VOL  T  OF  "  MO  THER." 

not  complain  of  what  they  do  any  more  than  we  do  of  the 

"I  don't  care;  I  don't  believe  George  is  anything  like 
that,  anyhow,"  said  Nanny.  Her  delicate  face  flushed  pink, 
her  lips  pouted  softly,  as  if  she  were  going  to  cry. 

"You  wait  an'  see.  I  guess  George  Eastman  ain't  no 
better  than  other  men.  You  hadn't  ought  to  judge  father, 
though.  He  can't  help  it,  'cause  he  don't  look  at  things 
jest  the  way  we  do.  An'  we've  been  pretty  comfortable 
here,  after  all.  The  roof  don't  leak — ain't  never  but  once 
— that's  one  thing.  Father's  kept  it  shingled  right  up." 

"  I  do  wish  we  had  a  parlor." 

"  I  guess  it  won't  hurt  George  Eastman  any  to  come  to 
see  you  in  a  nice  clean  kitchen.  I  guess  a  good  many  girls 
don't  have  as  good  a  place  as  this.  Nobody's  ever  heard 
me  complain." 

"  I  ain't  complained  either,  mother." 

"Well,  I  don't  think  you'd  better,  a  good  father  an'  a 
good  home  as  you've  got.  S'pose  your  father  made  you  go 
out  an'  work  for  your  livin'  ?  Lots  of  girls  have  to  that 
ain't  no  stronger  an*  better  able  to  than  you  be." 

Sarah  Penn  washed  the  frying-pan  with  a  conclusive  air. 
She  scrubbed  the  outside  of  it  as  faithfully  as  the  inside. 
She  was  a  masterly  keeper  of  her  box  of  a  house.  Her  one 
living-room  never  seemed  to  have  in  it  any  of  the  dust 
which  the  friction  of  life  with  inanimate  matter  produces. 
She  swept,  and  there  seemed  to  be  no  dirt  to  go  before  the 
broom ;  she  cleaned,  and  one  could  see  no  difference.  She 
was  like  an  artist  so  perfect  that  he  has  apparently  no  art. 
To-day  she  got  out  a  mixing  bowl  and  a  board,  and  rolled 
some  pies,  and  there  was  no  more  flour  upon  her  than  upon 
her  daughter  who  was  doing  finer  work.  Nanny  was  te>  be 

THE  REVOLT  Ot    "MOTHER."  453 

married  in  the  fall,  and  she  was  sewing  on  some  white  cam 
bric  and  embroidery.  She  sewed  industriously  while  her 
mother  cooked,  her  soft  milk-white  hands  and  wrists  showed 
whiter  than  her  delicate  work. 

"  We  must  have  the  stove  moved  out  in  the  shed  before 
long,"  said  Mrs.  Penn.  "  Talk  about  not  havin'  things,  it's 
been  a  real  blessin*  to  be  able  to  put  a  stove  up  in  that  shed 
in  hot  weather.  Father  did  one  good  thing  when  he  fixed 
that  stove-pipe  out  there." 

Sarah  Penn's  face  as  she  rolled  her  pies  had  that  expres 
sion  of  meek  vigor  which  might  have  characterized  one  of 
the  New  Testament  saints.  She  was  making  mince-pies. 
Her  husband,  Adoniram  Penn,  liked  them  better  than  any 
other  kind.  She  baked  twice  a  week.  Adoniram  often 
liked  a  piece  of  pie  between  meals.  She  hurried  this  morn 
ing.  It  had  been  later  than  usual  when  she  began,  and  she 
wanted  to  have  a  pie  baked  for  dinner.  However  deep  a 
resentment  she  might  be  forced  to  hold  against  her  hus 
band,  she  would  never  fail  in  sedulous  attention  to  his 

Nobility  of  character  manifests  itself  at  loop-holes  when 
it  is  not  provided  with  large  doors.  Sarah  Penn's  showed 
itself  to-day  in  flaky  dishes  of  pastry.  So  she  made  the 
pies  faithfully,  while  across  the  table  she  could  see,  when 
she  glanced  up  from  her  work,  the  sight  that  rankled  in  her 
patient  and  steadfast  soul — the  digging  of  the  cellar  of  the 
new  barn  in  the  place  where  Adoniram  forty  years  ago  had 
promised  her  their  new  house  should  stand. 

The  pies  were  done  for  dinner.  Adoniram  and  Sammy 
were  home  a  few  minutes  after  twelve  o'clock.  The  dinner 
was  eaten  with  serious  haste.  There  was  never  much  con 
versation  at  the  table  in  the  Penn  family.  Adoniram  asked 


a  blessing,  and  they  ate  promptly,  then  rose  up  and  went 
about  their  work. 

Sammy  went  back  to  school,  taking  soft  sly  lopes  out  of 
the  yard  like  a  rabbit.  He  wanted  a  game  of  marbles  be 
fore  school,  and  feared  his  father  would  give  him  some 
chores  to  do.  Adoniram  hastened  to  the  door  and  called 
after  him,  but  he  was  out  of  sight. 

"  I  don't  see  what  you  let  him  go  for,  mother,"  said  he. 
"  I  wanted  him  to  help  me  unload  that  wood." 

Adoniram  went  to  work  out  in  the  yard  unloading  wood 
from  the  wagon.  Sarah  put  away  the  dinner  dishes,  while 
Nanny  took  down  her  curl-papers  and  changed  her  dress. 
She  was  going  down  to  the  store  to  buy  some  more  em 
broidery  and  thread. 

When  Nanny  was  gone,  Mrs.  Penn  went  to  the  door, 
"  Father  I"  she  called. 

"  Well,  what  is  it  I" 

11 1  want  to  see  you  jest  a  minute,  father." 

"  I  can't  leave  this  wood  nohow.  I've  got  to  git  it  un 
loaded  an'  go  for  a  load  of  gravel  afore  two  o'clock.  Sammy 
had  ought  to  helped  me.  You  hadn't  ought  to  let  him  go 
to  school  so  early." 

"  I  want  to  see  you  jest  a  minute." 

"  I  tell  ye  I  can't,  nohow,  mother." 

"  Father,  you  come  here."  Sarah  Penn  stood  in  the  door 
like  a  queen ;  she  held  her  head  as  if  it  bore  a  crown ;  there 
was  that  patience  which  makes  authority  royal  in  her  voice. 
Adoniram  went. 

Mrs.  Penn  led  the  way  into  the  kitchen,  and  pointed  to  a 
chair.  "  Sit  down,  father,"  said  she  ;  "  I've  got  somethin'' 
I  want  to  say  to  you." 

He  sat  down  heavily;  his  face  was  quite  stolid,  but  he 


looked  at  her  with  restive  eyes.     "  Well,  what  is  it,  moth 
er  r 

"  I  want  to  know  what  you're  buildin'  that  new  barn  for, 

"  I  ain't  got  nothin'  to  say  about  it." 

"  It  can't  be  you  think  you  need  another  barn  ?" 

"  I  tell  ye  I  ain't  got  nothin'  to  say  about  it,  mother ;  an' 
I  ain't  goin'  to  say  nothin'." 

"  Be  you  goin'  to  buy  more  cows  ?" 

Adoniram  did  not  reply ;  he  shut  his  mouth  tight. 

"  I  know  you  be,  as  well  as  I  want  to.  Now,  father,  look 
here" — Sarah  Penn  had  not  sat  down  ;  she  stood  before 
her  husband  in  the  humble  fashion  of  a  Scripture  woman — 
*  I'm  goin'  to  talk  real  plain  to  you ;  I  never  have  sence  I 
married  you,  but  I'm  goin'  to  now.  I  ain't  never  complained, 
an'  I  ain't  goin'  to  complain  now,  but  I'm  goin'  to  talk  plain. 
You  see  this  room  here,  father ;  you  look  at  it  well.  You 
see  there  ain't  no  carpet  on  the  floor,  an'  you  see  the  paper 
is  all  dirty,  an1  droppin'  off  the  walls.  We  ain't  had  no  new 
paper  on  it  for  ten  year,  an'  then  I  put  it  on  myself,  an'  it 
didn't  cost  but  ninepence  a  roll.  You  see  this  room,  father ; 
it's  all  the  one  I've  had  to  work  in  an'  eat  in  an*  sit  in  sence 
we  was  married.  There  ain't  another  woman  in  the  whole 
town  whose  husband  ain't  got  half  the  means  you  have  but 
what's  got  better.  It's  all  the  room  Nanny's  got  to  have 
her  company  in  ;  an'  there  ain't  one  of  her  mates  but  what's 
got  better,  an'  their  fathers  not  so  able  as  hers  is.  It's  all 
the  room  she'll  have  to  be  married  in.  What  would  you 
have  thought,  father,  if  we  had  had  our  weddin'  in  a  room 
no  better  than  this  ?  I  was  married  in  my  mother's 
parlor,  with  a  carpet  on  the  floor,  an'  stuffed  furniture, 
an'  a  mahogany  card -table.  An'  this  is  all  the  room 


my  daughter  will  have  to  be  married  in.  Look  here, 
father  1" 

Sarah  Penn  went  across  the  room  as  though  it  were  a 
tragic  stage.  She  flung  open  a  door  and  disclosed  a  tiny 
bedroom,  only  large  enough  for  a  bed  and  bureau,  with  a 
path  between.  "  There,  father,"  said  she—"  there's  all  the 
room  I've  had  to  sleep  in  forty  year.  All  my  children  were 
born  there — the  two  that  died,  an'  the  two  that's  livin'.  I 
was  sick  with  a  fever  there." 

She  stepped  to  another  door  and  opened  it.  It  led  into 
the  small,  ill-lighted  pantry.  "  Here,"  said  she,  "  is  all  the 
buttery  I've  got — every  place  I've  got  for  my  dishes,  to  set 
away  my  victuals  in,  an'  to  keep  my  milk-pans  in.  Father, 
I've  been  takin'  care  of  the  milk  of  six  cows  in  this  place, 
an'  now  you're  goin'  to  build  a  new  barn,  an'  keep  more 
cows,  an'  give  me  more  to  do  in  it." 

She  threw  open  another  door.  A  narrow  crooked  flight 
of  stairs  wound  upward  from  it.  "  There,  father,"  said  she, 
"  I  want  you  to  look  at  the  stairs  that  go  up  to  them  two 
unfinished  chambers  that  are  all  the  places  our  son  an* 
daughter  have  had  to  sleep  in  all  their  lives.  There  ain't  a 
prettier  girl  in  town  nor  a  more  ladylike  one  than  Nanny, 
an'  that's  the  place  she  has  to  sleep  in.  It  ain't  so  good  as 
your  horse's  stall ;  it  ain't  so  warm  an'  tight." 

Sarah  Penn  went  back  and  stood  before  her  husband. 
"Now,  father,"  said  she,  "I  want  to  know  if  you  think 
you're  doin'  right  an'  accordin'  to  what  you  profess.  Here, 
when  we  was  married,  forty  year  ago,  you  promised  me 
faithful  that  we  should  have  a  new  house  built  in  that  lot 
over  in  the  field  before  the  year  was  out.  You  said  you  had 
money  enough,  an'  you  wouldn't  ask  me  to  live  in  no  such 
place  as  this.  It  is  forty  year  now,  an'  you've  been  makinf 


more  money,  an'  I've  been  savin'  of  it  for  you  ever  since, 
an'  you  ain't  built  no  house  yet.  You've  built  sheds  an' 
cow-houses  an'  one  new  barn,  an'  now  you're  goin'  to  build 
another.  Father,  I  want  to  know  if  you  think  it's  right. 
You're  lodgin'  your  dumb  beasts  better  than  you  are  your 
own  flesh  an'  blood.  I  want  to  know  if  you  think  it's  right" 

"  I  ain't  got  nothin'  to  say." 

"You  can't  say  nothin'  without  ownin'  it  ain't  right, 
father.  An'  there's  another  thing  —  I  ain't  complained; 
I've  got  along  forty  year,  an'  I  s'pose  I  should  forty  more, 
if  it  wa'n't  for  that — if  we  don't  have  another  house.  Nanny 
she  can't  live  with  us  after  she's  married.  She'll  have  to  go 
somewheres  else  to  live  away  from  us,  an'  it  don't  seem  as 
if  I  could  have  it  so,  noways,  father.  She  wa'n't  ever 
strong.  She's  got  considerable  color,  but  there  wa'n't  never 
any  backbone  to  her.  I've  always  took  the  heft  of  every 
thing  off  her,  an'  she  ain't  fit  to  keep  house  an'  do  every 
thing  herself.  She'll  be  all  worn  out  inside  of  a  year. 
Think  of  her  doin'  all  the  washin'  an'  ironin'  an'  bakin'  with 
them  soft  white  hands  an'  arms,  an'  sweepin'  1  I  can't  have 
it  so,  noways,  father." 

Mrs.  Penn's  face  was  burning ;  her  mild  eyes  gleamed. 
She  had  pleaded  her  little  cause  like  a  Webster ;  she  had 
ranged  from  severity  to  pathos ;  but  her  opponent  employed 
that  obstinate  silence  which  makes  eloquence  futile  with 
mocking  echoes.  Adoniram  arose  clumsily. 

"  Father,  ain't  you  got  nothin'  to  say  ?"  said  Mrs.  Penn. 

"  I've  got  to  go  off  after  that  load  of  gravel.  I  can't 
stan'  here  talkin'  all  day." 

"  Father,  won't  you  think  it  over,  an'  have  a  house  built 
there  instead  of  a  barn  ?" 

"  I  ain't  got  nothin'  to  say." 


Adoniram  shuffled  out.  Mrs.  Penn  went  into  her  bed 
room.  When  she  came  out,  her  eyes  were  red.  She  had  a 
roll  of  unbleached  cotton  cloth.  She  spread  it  out  on  the 
kitchen  table,  and  began  cutting  out  some  shirts  for  her 
husband.  The  men  over  in  the  field  had  a  team  to  help 
them  this  afternoon;  she  could  hear  their  halloos.  She 
had  a  scanty  pattern  for  the  shirts  j  she  had  to  plan  and 
piece  the  sleeves. 

Nanny  came  home  with  her  embroidery,  and  sat  down 
with  her  needlework.  She  had  taken  down  her  curl-papers, 
and  there  was  a  soft  roll  of  fair  hair  like  an  aureole  over  her 
forehead  ;  her  face  was  as  delicately  fine  and  clear  as  porce 
lain.  Suddenly  she  looked  up,  and  the  tender  red  flamed 
all  over  her  face  and  neck.  "  Mother,"  said  she. 

"  What  say  ?" 

"  I've  been  thinking — I  don't  see  how  we're  goin'  to  have 
any — wedding  in  this  room.  I'd  be  ashamed  to  have  his 
folks  come  if  we  didn't  have  anybody  else." 

"  Mebbe  we  can  have  some  new  paper  before  then ;  I 
can  put  it  on.  I  guess  you  won't  have  no  call  to  be 
ashamed  of  your  belongin's." 

"  We  might  have  the  wedding  in  the  new  barn,"  said  Nan 
ny,  with  gentle  pettishness.  "  Why,  mother,  what  makes 
you  look  so  ?" 

Mrs.  Penn  had  started,  and  was  staring  at  her  with  a  curi 
ous  expression.  She  turned  again  to  her  work,  and  spread 
out  a  pattern  carefully  on  the  cloth.  "  Nothin',"  said  she. 

Presently  Adoniram  clattered  out  of  the  yard  in  his  two- 
wheeled  dump  cart,  standing  as  proudly  upright  as  a  Roman 
charioteer.  Mrs.  Penn  opened  the  door  and  stood  there  a 
minute  looking  out ;  the  halloos  of  the  men  sounded  louder. 

It  seemed  to  her  all  through  the  spring  months  that  she 


heard  nothing  but  the  halloos  and  the  noises  of  saws  and 
hammers.  The  new  barn  grew  fast.  It  was  a  fine  edifice 
for  this  little  village.  Men  came  on  pleasant  Sundays,  in 
their  meeting  suits  and  clean  shirt  bosoms,  and  stood  around 
it  admiringly.  Mrs.  Penn  did  not  speak  of  it,  and  Adoni- 
ram  did  not  mention  it  to  her, although  sometimes, upon  are- 
turn  from  inspecting  it,  he  bore  himself  with  injured  dignity. 

"It's  a  strange  thing  how  your  mother  feels  about  the 
new  barn,"  he  said,  confidentially,  to  Sammy  one  day. 

Sammy  only  grunted  after  an  odd  fashion  for  a  boy ;  he 
had  learned  it  from  his  father. 

The  barn  was  all  completed  ready  for  use  by  the  third 
week  in  July.  Adoniram  had  planned  to  move  his  stock 
in  on  Wednesday ;  on  Tuesday  he  received  a  letter  which 
changed  his  plans.  He  came  in  with  it  early  in  the  morn 
ing.  "  Sammy's  been  to  the  post-office,"  said  he,  "  an'  I've 
got  a  letter  from  Hiram."  Hiram  was  Mrs.  Penn's  brother, 
who  lived  in  Vermont. 

"  Well,"  said  Mrs.  Penn,  "  what  does  he  say  about  the 

"  I  guess  they're  all  right.  He  says  he  thinks  if  I  come 
up  country  right  off  there's  a  chance  to  buy  jest  the  kind  of 
a  horse  I  want."  He  stared  reflectively  out  of  the  window 
at  the  new  barn. 

Mrs.  Penn  was  making  pies.  She  went  on  clapping  the 
rolling-pin  into  the  crust,  although  she  was  very  pale,  and 
her  heart  beat  loudly. 

"  I  dun'  know  but  what  I'd  better  go,"  said  Adoniram.  "  I 
hate  to  go  off  jest  now,  right  in  the  midst  of  hayin',  but  the 
ten-acre  lot's  cut,  an'  I  guess  Rufus  an'  the  others  can  git 
along  without  me  three  or  four  days.  I  can't  get  a  horse 
round  here  to  suit  me,  nohow,  an'  I've  got  to  have  another 


for  all  that  wood-haulin'  in  the  fall.  I  told  Hiram  to  watch 
out,  an"  if  he  got  wind  of  a  good  horse  to  let  me  know.  I 
guess  I'd  better  go." 

"  I'll  get  out  your  clean  shirt  an'  collar,"  said  Mrs.  Penn 

She  laid  out  Adoniram's  Sunday  suit  and  his  clean 
ciothes  on  the  bed  in  the  little  bedroom.  She  got  his  shav 
ing-water  and  razor  ready.  At  last  she  buttoned  on  his 
collar  and  fastened  his  black  cravat. 

Adoniram  never  wore  his  collar  and  cravat  except  on  ex 
tra  occasions.  He  held  his  head  high,  with  a  rasped  dignity. 
When  he  was  all  ready,  with  his  coat  and  hat  brushed, 
and  a  lunch  of  pie  and  cheese  in  a  paper  bag,  he  hesitated 
on  the  threshold  of  the  door.  He  looked  at  his  wife,  and 
his  manner  was  defiantly  apologetic,  "^them  cows  come 
to-day,  Sammy  can  drive  'em  into  the  new  barn,"  said  he  ; 
"  an'  when  they  bring  the  hay  up,  they  can  pitch  it  in  there." 

"  Well,"  replied  Mrs.  Penn. 

Adoniram  set  his  shaven  face  ahead  and  started.  When 
he  had  cleared  the  door-step,  he  turned  and  looked  back 
with  a  kind  of  nervous  solemnity.  "I  shall  be  back  by 
Saturday  if  nothin'  happens,"  said  he. 

"  Do  be  careful,  father,"  returned  his  wife. 

She  stood  in  the  door  with  Nanny  at  her  elbow  and 
watched  him  out  of  sight.  Her  eyes  had  a  strange,  doubt 
ful  expression  in  them ;  her  peaceful  forehead  was  con 
tracted.  She  went  in,  and  about  her  baking  again.  Nanny 
sat  sewing.  Her  wedding-day  was  drawing  nearer,  and 
she  was  getting  pale  and  thin  with  her  steady  sewing.  Her 
mother  kept  glancing  at  her. 

"  Have  you  got  that  pain  in  your  side  this  mornin*?"  she 


"  A  little." 

Mrs.  Penn's  face,  as  she  worked,  changed,  her  perplexed 
forehead  smoothed,  her  eyes  were  steady,  her  lips  firmly  set. 
She  formed  a  maxim  for  herself,  although  incoherently  with 
her  unlettered  thoughts.  "  Unsolicited  opportunities  are  the 
guide-posts  of  the  Lord  to  the  new  roads  of  life,"  she  repeated 
in  effect,  and  she  made  up  her  mind  to  her  course  of  action. 

"  S'posin'  I  had  wrote  to  Hiram,"  she  muttered  once, 
when  she  was  in  the  pantry — "  s'posin'  I  had  wrote,  an' 
asked  him  if  he  knew  of  any  horse?  But  I  didn't,  an' 
father's  goin'  wa'n't  none  of  my  doin'.  It  looks  like  a 
providence."  Her  voice  rang  out  quite  loud  at  the  last. 

"What  you  talkin'  about,  mother?"  called  Nanny. 

"  Nothin'." 

Mrs.  Penn  hurried  her  baking ;  at  eleven  o'clock  it  was 
all  done.  The  load  of  hay  from  the  west  field  came  slowly 
down  the  cart  track,  and  drew  up  at  the  new  barn.  Mrs. 
Penn  ran  out.  "  Stop  !"  she  screamed—"  stop  1" 

The  men  stopped  and  looked  ;  Sammy  upreared  from  the 
top  of  the  load,  and  stared  at  his  mother. 

"  Stop  !"  she  cried  out  again.  "  Don't  you  put  the  hay 
in  that  barn ;  put  it  in  the  old  one." 

"Why,  he  said  to  put  it  in  here,"  returned  one  of  the  hay 
makers,  wonderingly.  He  was  a  young  man,  a  neighbor's 
son,  whom  Adoniram  hired  by  the  year  to  help  on  the  farm. 

"  Don't  you  put  the  hay  in  the  new  barn  ;  there's  room 
enough  in  the  old  one,  ain't  there?"  said  Mrs.  Penn. 

"  Room  enough,"  returned  the  hired  man,  in  his  thick, 
rustic  tones.  "  Didn't  need  the  new  barn,  nohow,  far  as 
room's  concerned.  Well,  I  s'pose  he  changed  his  mind." 
He  took  hold  of  the  horses'  bridles. 

Mrs.  Penn  went  back  to  the  house.     Soon  the  kitchen 


windows  were  darkened,  and  a  fragrance  like  warm  honey 
came  into  the  room. 

Nanny  laid  down  her  work.  "  I  thought  father  wanted 
them  to  put  the  hay  into  the  new  barn  ?"  she  said,  won- 

"  It's  all  right,"  replied  her  mother. 

Sammy  slid  down  from  the  load  of  hay,  and  came  in  to 
see  if  dinner  was  ready. 

"I  ain't  goin'  to  get  a  regular  dinner  to-day,  as  long  as 
father's  gone,"  said  his  mother.  "  I've  let  the  fire  go  out. 
You  can  have  some  bread  an'  milk  an'  pie.  I  thought  we 
could  get  along."  She  set  out  some  bowls  of  milk,  some 
bread,  and  a  pie  on  the  kitchen  table.  "  You'd  better  eat 
your  dinner  now,"  said  she.  "  You  might  jest  as  well  get 
through  with  it.  I  want  you  to  help  me  afterward." 

Nanny  and  Sammy  stared  at  each  other.  There  was 
something  strange  in  their  mother's  manner.  Mrs.  Penn 
did  not  eat  anything  herself.  She  went  into  the  pantry, 
and  they  heard  her  moving  dishes  while  they  ate.  Present 
ly  she  came  out  with  a  pile  of  plates.  She  got  the  clothes- 
basket  out  of  the  shed,  and  packed  them  in  it.  Nanny  and 
Sammy  watched.  She  brought  out  cups  and  saucers,  and 
put  them  in  with  the  plates. 

"What  you  goin'  to  do,  mother?"  inquired  Nanny,  in  a 
timid  voice.  A  sense  of  something  unusual  made  her  trenv 
ble,  as  if  it  were  a  ghost.  Sammy  rolled  his  eyes  over  his  pie, 

"You'll  see  what  I'm  goin'  to  do,"  replied  Mrs.  Penn. 
"If  you're  through,  Nanny,  I  want  you  to  go  up-stairs  an* 
pack  up  your  things ;  an'  I  want  you,  Sammy,  to  help  me 
take  down  the  bed  in  the  bedroom." 

"  Oh,  mother,  what  for  ?"  gasped  Nanny. 

"You'll  see." 

During:  the  next  few  hours  a  feat  was  performed  by  this 


simple,  pious  New  England  mother  which  was  equal  in  its 
way  to  Wolfe's  storming  of  the  Heights  of  Abraham.  It 
took  no  more  genius  and  audacity  of  bravery  for  Wolfe  to 
cheer  his  wondering  soldiers  up  those  steep  precipices,  un 
der  the  sleeping  eyes  of  the  enemy,  than  for  Sarah  Penn,  at 
the  head  of  her  children,  to  move  all  their  little  household 
goods  into  the  new  barn  while  her  husband  was  away. 

Nanny  and  Sammy  followed  their  mother's  instructions 
without  a  murmur ;  indeed,  they  were  overawed.  There  is  a 
certain  uncanny  and  superhuman  quality  about  all  such 
purely  original  undertakings  as  their  mother's  was  to  them. 
Nanny  went  back  and  forth  with  her  light  loads,  and  Sam 
my  tugged  with  sober  energy. 

At  five  o'clock  in  the  afternoon  the  little  house  in  which 
the  Penns  had  lived  for  forty  years  had  emptied  itself  into 
the  new  barn. 

Every  builder  builds  somewhat  for  unknown  purposes, 
and  is  in  a  measure  a  prophet.  The  architect  of  Adoni- 
ram  Penn's  barn,  while  he  designed  it  for  the  comfort  of 
four-footed  animals,  had  planned  better  than  he  knew  for 
the  comfort  of  humans.  Sarah  Penn  saw  at  a  glance  its 
possibilities.  Those  great  box-stalls,  with  quilts  hung  before 
them,  would  make  better  bedrooms  than  the  one  she  had 
occupied  for  forty  years,  and  there  was  a  tight  carriage- 
room.  The  harness-room,  with  its  chimney  and  shelves, 
would  make  a  kitchen  of  her  dreams.  The  great  middle 
space  would  make  a  parlor,  by-and-by,  fit  for  a  palace. 
Up  stairs  there  was  as  much  room  as  down.  With  parti 
tions  and  windows,  what  a  house  would  there  be !  Sarah 
looked  at  the  row  of  stanchions  before  the  allotted  space  for 
cows,  and  reflected  that  she  would  have  her  front  entry  there. 

At  six  o'clock  the  stove  was  up  in  the  harness-room, 
the  kettle  was  boiling,  an£  the  table  set  for  tea.  It  looked 


almost  as  home-like  as  the  abandoned  house  across  the 
yard  had  ever  done.  The  young  hired  man  milked,  and 
Sarah  directed  him  calmly  to  bring  the  milk  to  the  new 
barn.  He  came  gaping,  dropping  little  blots  of  foam  from 
the  brimming  pails  on  the  grass.  Before  the  next  morning 
he  had  spread  the  story  of  Adoniram  Penn's  wife  moving 
into  the  new  barn  all  over  the  little  village.  Men  assembled 
in  the  store  and  talked  it  over,  women  with  shawls  over 
their  heads  scuttled  into  each  other's  houses  before  their 
work  was  done.  Any  deviation  from  the  ordinary  course 
of  life  in  this  quiet  town  was  enough  to  stop  all  progress  in 
it.  Everybody  paused  to  look  at  the  staid,  independent 
figure  on  the  side  track.  There  was  a  difference  of  opinion 
with  regard  to  her.  Some  held  her  to  be  insane  ;  some,  of 
a  lawless  and  rebellious  spirit. 

Friday  the  minister  went  to  see  her.  It  was  in  the 
forenoon,  and  she  was  at  the  barn  door  shelling  pease  for 
dinner.  She  looked  up  and  returned  his  salutation  with 
dignity,  then  she  went  on  with  her  work.  She  did  not 
invite  him  in.  The  saintly  expression  of  her  face  remained 
fixed,  but  there  wa;  an  angry  flush  over  it. 

The  minister  stood  awkwardly  before  her,  and  talked. 
She  handled  the  pease  as  if  they  were  bullets.  At  last  she 
looked  up,  and  her  eyes  showed  the  spirit  that  her  meek 
front  had  covered  for  a  lifetime. 

"  There  ain't  no  use  talkin',  Mr.  Hersey,"  said  she.  "  I've 
thought  it  all  over  an'  over,  an'  I  believe  I'm  doin'  what's 
right.  I've  made  it  the  subject  of  prayer,  an'  it's  betwixt 
me  an'  the  Lord  an'  Adoniram.  There  ain't  no  call  for 
nobody  else  to  worry  about  it." 

"  Well,  of  course,  if  you  have  brought  it  to  the  Lord  in 
prayer,  and  feel  satisfied  that  you  are  doing  right,  Mrs. 
Penn,"  said  the  minister,  helplessly.  His  thin  gray-bearded 


face  was  pathetic.  He  was  a  sickly  man ;  his  youthful 
confidence  had  cooled ;  he  had  to  scourge  himself  up  to 
some  of  his  pastoral  duties  as  relentlessly  as  a  Catholic 
ascetic,  and  then  he  was  prostrated  by  the  smart 

"  I  think  it's  right  jest  as  much  as  I  think  it  was  right 
for  our  forefathers  to  come  over  from  the  old  country  'cause 
they  didn't  have  what  belonged  to  'em,"  said  Mrs.  Penn. 
She  arose.  The  barn  threshold  might  have  been  Plymouth 
Rock  from  her  bearing.  "  I  don't  doubt  you  mean  well, 
Mr.  Hersey,"  said  she,  "  but  there  are  things  people  hadn't 
ought  to  interfere  with.  I've  been  a  member  of  the  church 
for  over  forty  year.  I've  got  my  own  mind  an'  my  own 
feet,  an'  I'm  goin'  to  think  my  own  thoughts  an'  go  my  own 
ways,  an'  nobody  but  the  Lord  is  goin'  to  dictate  to  me 
unless  I've  a  mind  to  have  him.  Won't  you  come  in  an' 
set  down  ?  How  is  Mis'  Hersey  ?" 

"  She  is  well,  I  thank  you,"  replied  the  minister.  He 
added  some  more  perplexed  apologetic  remarks;  then  he 

He  could  expound  the  intricacie  ?of  every  character 
study  in  the  Scriptures,  he  was  competent  to  grasp  the 
Pilgrim  Fathers  and  all  historical  innovators,  but  Sarah 
Penn  was  beyond  him.  He  could  deal  with  primal  cases, 
but  parallel  ones  worsted  him.  But,  after  all,  although  it 
was  aside  from  his  province,  he  wondered  more  how  Adoni- 
ram  Penn  would  deal  with  his  wife  than  how  the  Lord 
would.  Everybody  shared  the  wonder.  When  Adoniram's 
four  new  cows  arrived,  Sarah  ordered  three  to  be  put  in 
the  old  barn,  the  other  in  the  house  shed  where  the  cook 
ing-stove  had  stood.  That  added  to  the  excitement.  It  was 
whispered  that  all  four  cows  were  domiciled  in  the  house. 

Towards  sunset  on  Saturday,  when  Adoniram  was  ex« 


pected  home,  there  was  a  knot  of  men  in  the  road  near  the 
new  barn.  The  hired  man  had  milked,  but  he  still  hung 
around  the  premises.  Sarah  Penn  had  supper  all  ready. 
There  were  brown-bread  and  baked  beans  and  a  custard 
pie ;  it  was  the  supper  that  Adoniram  loved  on  a  Saturday 
night.  She  had  on  a  clean  calico,  and  she  bore  herself 
imperturbably.  Nanny  and  Sammy  kept  close  at  her  heels. 
Their  eyes  were  large,  and  Nanny  was  full  of  nervous 
tremors.  Still  there  was  to  them  more  pleasant  excite 
ment  than  anything  else.  An  inborn  confidence  in  their 
mother  over  their  father  asserted  itself. 

Sammy  looked  out  of  the  harness-room  window.  "  There 
he  is,"  he  announced,  in  an  awed  whisper.  He  and  Nanny 
peeped  around  the  casing.  Mrs.  Penn  kept  on  about  her 
work.  The  children  watched  Adoniram  leave  the  new  horse 
standing  in  the  drive  while  he  went  to  the  house  door.  It 
was  fastened.  Then  he  went  around  to  the  shed.  That 
door  was  seldom  locked,  even  when  the  family  was  away. 
The  thought  how  her  father  would  be  confronted  by  the  cow 
flashed  upon  Nanny.  There  was  a  hysterical  sob  in  her 
throat.  Adoniram  emerged  from  the  shed  and  stood  look 
ing  about  in  a  dazed  fashion.  His  lips  moved ;  he  was 
saying  something,  but  they  could  not  hear  what  it  was. 
The  hired  man  was  peeping  around  a  corner  of  the  old 
barn,  but  nobody  saw  him. 

Adoniram  took  the  new  horse  by  the  bridle  and  led  him 
across  the  yard  to  the  new  barn.  Nanny  and  Sammy  slunk 
close  to  their  mother.  The  barn  doors  rolled  back,  and 
there  stood  Adoniram,  with  the  long  mild  face  of  the  great 
Canadian  farm  horse  looking  over  his  shoulder. 

Nanny  kept  behind  her  mother,  but  Sammy  stepped  sud 
denly  forward,  and  stood  in  front  of  her. 

Adoniram  stared  at  the  group.     "  What  on  airth  you  all 


down  here  for  ?"  said  he.  "  What's  the  matter  over  to  the 
house  ?" 

"We've  come  here  to  live,  father,"  said  Sammy.  His 
shrill  voice  quavered  out  bravely. 

"What" — Adoniram  sniffed — "what  is  it  smells  like 
cookin  ?"  said  he.  He  stepped  forward  and  looked  in  the 
open  door  of  the  harness-room.  Then  he  turned  to  his 
wife.  His  old  bristling  face  was  pale  and  frightened.  "  What 
on  airth  does  this  mean,  mother  ?"  he  gasped. 

"You  come  in  here,  father,"  said  Sarah.  She  led  the 
way  into  the  harness-room  and  shut  the  door.  "  Now, 
father,"  said  she,  "you  needn't  be  scared.  I  ain't  crazy. 
There  ain't  nothin'  to  be  upset  over.  But  we've  come  here 
to  live,  an'  we're  goin'  to  live  here.  We've  got  jest  as  good 
a  right  here  as  new  horses  an'  cows.  The  house  wa'n't  fit 
for  us  to  live  in  any  longer,  an'  I  made  up  my  mind  I  wa'n't 
goin'  to  stay  there.  I've  done  my  duty  by  you  forty  year, 
an'  I'm  goin'  to  do  it  now;  but  I'm  goin'  to  live  here. 
You've  got  to  put  in  some  windows  and  partitions ;  an' 
you'll  have  to  buy  some  furniture." 

"  Why,  mother !"  the  old  man  gasped. 

"  You'd  better  take  your  coat  off  an'  get  washed — there's 
the  wash-basin — an'  then  we'll  have  supper." 

"Why,  mother!" 

Sammy  went  past  the  window,  leading  the  new  horse  to 
the  old  barn.  The  old  man  saw  him,  and  shook  his  head 
speechlessly.  He  tried  to  take  off  his  coat,  but  his  arms 
seemed  to  lack  the  power.  His  wife  helped  him.  She 
poured  some  water  into  the  tin  basin,  and  put  in  a  piece 
of  soap.  She  got  the  comb  and  brush,  and  smoothed  his 
thin  gray  hair  after  he  had  washed.  Then  she  put  the 
beans,  hot  bread,  and  tea  on  the  table.  Sammy  came  in, 


and  the  family  drew  up.  Adoniram  sat  looking  dazedly  at 
his  plate,  and  they  waited. 

"  Ain't  you  goin'  to  ask  a  blessin',  father  ?"  said  Sarah. 

And  the  old  man  bent  his  head  and  mumbled. 

All  through  the  meal  he  stopped  eating  at  intervals,  and 
stared  furtively  at  his  wife ;  but  he  ate  well.  The  home 
food  tasted  good  to  him,  and  his  old  frame  was  too  sturdily 
healthy  to  be  affected  by  his  mind.  But  after  supper  he 
went  out,  and  sat  down  on  the  step  of  the  smaller  door  at 
the  right  of  the  barn,  through  which  he  had  meant  his  Jer 
seys  to  pass  in  stately  file,  but  which  Sarah  designed  for 
her  front  house  door,  and  he  leaned  his  head  on  his  hands. 

After  the  supper  dishes  were  cleared  away  and  the  milk- 
pans  washed,  Sarah  went  out  to  him.  The  twilight  was 
deepening.  There  was  a  clear  green  glow  in  the  sky.  Be 
fore  them  stretched  the  smooth  level  of  field ;  in  the  dis 
tance  was  a  cluster  of  hay-stacks  like  the  huts  of  a  village ; 
the  air  was  very  cool  and  calm  and  sweet.  The  landscape 
might  have  been  an  ideal  one  of  peace. 

Sarah  bent  over  and  touched  her  husband  on  one  of  his 
thin,  sinewy  shoulders.  "  Father  !" 

The  old  man's  shoulders  heaved  :  he  was  weeping. 

"  Why,  don't  do  so,  father,"  said  Sarah. 

"I'll — put  up  the  —  partitions,  an'  —  everything  you  — 
want,  mother." 

Sarah  put  her  apron  up  to  her  face ;  she  was  overcome 
by  her  own  triumph. 

Adoniram  was  like  a  fortress  whose  walls  had  no  active 
resistance,  and  went  down  the  instant  the  right  besieging 
tools  were  used.  "Why,  mother,"  he  said,  hoarsely,  "I 
hadn't  no  idee  you  was  so  set  on't  as  all  this  comes  to." 

THE    END. 


This  book  is  due  on  the  last  DATE  stamped  below. 

To  renew  by  phone,  call  429-2756 

Books  not  returned  or  renewed  within  14  days 

after  due  date  are  subject  to  billing. 

NOV    8  1986RECM) 


FEB  2  i  '          ;'jj 

APR  15 '91 


>    OV96 

16  1996  SEW 

Series  2373 


3  2106  00206  8762